The central problem with the Republican Party doing outreach to the black community is that it involves them saying lots of incredibly stupid things. Today’s case in point: Mona Charen, who’s decided that Bush loves minorities like Jack Donaghy loves cookie jars.
And yet, as recent news about student test scores reminds us, a poignant aspect of this president’s two terms is his unrequited love for blacks and other minorities.
Many black readers will laugh at this assertion. No president in recent memory has been held in lower esteem by black voters than George W. Bush. Reagan and H.W. Bush were perceived (despite their best efforts) as uncaring at best. Bill Clinton was adored. But from the beginning, George W. Bush was painted as the devil by many black leaders. It’s remarkable that this was so, considering Mr. Bush’s steadfast and unwavering interest in the poor and minorities, but there it is. When no other opportunity for tarring President Bush presented itself, his detractors seized upon Hurricane Katrina as the catch basin for all the free-floating bile against the president.
There are many, many reasons black people don’t like George W. Bush. There were the symbolic rejections of the NAACP, the fact that his economic policies had the direct effect of helping making black people poorer and less likely to move up the economic ladder, the war they didn’t support, the token minority appointments to positions of power that were matched with a lily-white base of elected officials underneath them, the complete acceptance of the Reagan-era take on the black community…but perhaps more important than any of that? George W. Bush is about as universally disliked as a president can get without having been actively convicted of a felony. Nobody likes him – why more thoroughly insult the black community by pretending that they, unlike 75% of America, should be bowing at his feet?
That sort of answers the question about why black people don’t vote for Republicans, doesn’t it?
Remember the way George W. Bush first campaigned? He was the “compassionate conservative.” He visited so many black churches he could have applied for membership in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
A politician visits black churches during an election year? By God, I’m surprised he didn’t win a hundred and ten percent of the black vote pursuing such a novel strategy!
He telegraphed early and often that if elected he’d choose Colin Powell for Secretary of State (and that was only the beginning of his promotion of blacks and Hispanics to high office — he might as well have believed in affirmative action).
The conservative version of it, yes – where unqualified and underqualified minorities (with, tellingly, the exception of Powell) are given positions they can’t handle in order to fulfill a system of tokenism. Progress!
On his second day in office, Bush invited the all-Democrat Congressional Black Caucus to a meeting at the White House.
And by his three hundred and second day, he was telling them that their opposition to his total control of the military apparatus of the United States without question or appeal was akin to treason. Black people are just so hysterical.
His two signature domestic policies were the No Child Left Behind education act — a reform whose entire focus was on narrowing the achievement gap between blacks and Hispanics and other children — and the faith-based initiative that was aimed at helping all of those who for one reason or another fall into economic or psychic woe. As his former speechwriter Michael Gerson recalled, “He [wa]s deeply committed to the idea of helping the poor through community and faith-based institutions.”
So, two initiatives whose main purposes were tearing down “liberal” constructs like public education and the separation of church and state should be cheered because they, at some point, involved black people. Other things that should be cheered on this scale: the Vietnam War and UPN.
When President Clinton traveled to Africa, black Americans rejoiced at the recognition. Poor President Bush practically bankrupted the treasury by spending on AIDS treatment in Africa. Just last week the Senate approved $48 billion over the next five years to treat Africans with the disease, on top of the $15 billion already committed. How much praise has Bush earned for this? Well, Bono (who received the NAACP’s chairman’s award in 2007) was able to spare a kind word, but the normally voluble African-American community has been virtually silent on the matter. One liberal magazine did offer this last year: “How Bush’s AIDS Program is Failing Africans.”
Bush’s AIDS program is focused on preventing AIDS by doing everything but the thing that mainly helps prevent AIDS: giving out condoms and teaching people how to use them. It’s like teaching people how to eat better by giving food fried in buttermilk batter. It does make Reese’s Cups awesome, though.
Some conservatives don’t like No Child Left Behind. A recent report by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, for example, argues that NCLB has focused so much attention on poorly performing students that higher-performing kids have been neglected during the past six years.
On the other hand, the program, whatever its flaws, does seem to have gotten results. Education Week reported last month that student achievement in math and reading has risen over the past several years, with particularly strong improvements noted among fourth-graders in both subjects. Significantly, the gap between minorities and other students has narrowed. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy, 21 of 27 states studied showed moderate to large gains in math at the elementary level, 22 showed gains in reading and math at the middle-school level, and 12 states showed reading and math improvements among high schoolers. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called “nation’s report card,” reported improvement in 31 of 33 states examined.
Learning how to do better on a test doesn’t mean that schools or education are getting better. When your kid doesn’t know what mitosis is after 10th grade biology but can effortlessly rattle off the elements of the Pythagorean Theorem needed to pass the NCLB tests, your kid isn’t learning. They’re passing.
The excitement at the prospect of the first African-American president is natural and understandable. But the total contempt shown by the African-American community toward this president is a staggering injustice.
And here, friends, is the crux of the argument. The true injustice isn’t a president who has disappointed enough of the American public to justify revolution in less stable countries – the true injustice is that the American public isn’t running to his side to support him in his time of need, particularly shiftless Negroes who are idling away their time, waiting for their false Messiah to come and rescue them.
I’m going to start working on the Republican Guide to Approaching Black People. Rule #1: when approaching the black man or woman, please, for one, brief, blessed minute, don’t act as if the most benighted sector of society is the white Christian male. It’s like how you don’t pull out your penis on a date until after you’ve tipped the waiter.