No Man’s Land: Black Republicans Struggle to Be Heard in US Vote

No Man’s Land: Black Republicans Struggle to Be Heard in US Vote

© AFP/ Nicholas Kamm

WASHINGTON, November 2 (By Sasha Horne for RIA Novosti) – Attacked for not backing a black president, blasted for supporting the party of business, accused somehow of betraying their own race: Black US Republicans are trapped in a political no-man’s land where they say their voices are not being heard.

“I am one of the thousands of black Republicans who find themselves at odds with 95 percent of the rest of the black community who are Democrats,” said Barbara Howard, a political commentator and activist with the Congress for Racial equality, a civil rights group that defends minorities.

Howard and other black Republicans say the complicated intersection of politics and race in the United States today has produced a perverse dynamic which makes it extraordinarily difficult for black voters to support Republican candidates simply because they prefer their politics.
American actress Stacey Dash, who is black and Hispanic and who has appeared in films including the 1995 feature “Clueless,” also found herself in the middle of what some termed a racially-charged controversy after she posted a message on Twitter endorsing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“You’re an unemployed black woman endorsing Mitt Romney. You’re voting against yourself thrice, you poor beautiful idiot,” responded one critic on Twitter.  “Kill yourself, you old hag,” wrote another.

Dash said in an interview on CNN afterwards that the firestorm sparked by her support for Romney was startling and laid bare some of the fissures that divide the US electorate.

“I was shocked, saddened – not angry,” Dash said.

Michael McNeely, chairman of the state of Georgia’s Black Republican Council, an organization that represents black voters who support Romney, said he too was saddened by the angry response to Dash’s support for the Republican candidate challenging President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

“Resulting to name calling is so very juvenile,” said McNeely who tweeted his support for Dash’s endorsement shortly after the hostile responses unfolded on the social media site.
“Democrats often talk about diversity, but when you talk about diversity in party affiliation, they don’t seem to be as tolerant.”

There is at least some recent anecdotal evidence to support that assertion. Of the more than 100 black people included in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of 1,000 registered voters, not a single one voiced support for Romney.

“That’s historic,” according to Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. He told US News Weekly that in recent years Republican candidates have generally been able to win at least a fraction of the traditionally-Democratic black vote.

In 2008, Republican candidate John McCain won four percent of the black vote when he ran against Obama, and in 2004, former Republican President George W. Bush received 11 percent of the black vote when he ran against Democratic nominee John Kerry.

McNeely says regardless of the poll, there is a strong, agile group of black Romney supporters, many of them serving on Romney’s Black Leadership Council advisory group including state and national political figures, former professional athletes and religious leaders.

Historically, black Americans were the largest minority group in the United States.  A recent shift shows Hispanic Americans now hold that title, comprising 16.7 percent of the population compared to black Americans who make up just 13.1 percent.

As a result of that demographic sea change, both the Republican and Democratic parties have focused more of their efforts on tackling issues that draw Hispanic voters, including immigration reform.

If the percentage of black voters who supported both parties were more evenly split, McNeely believes the black community would get more attention from both Democratic and Republican candidates alike.

McNeely cites Obama’s decision to skip this year’s conference for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a historic and influential civil rights group, as an example.

“Obama didn’t come to the meeting. If he didn’t have the black vote locked up, would he have taken time” to attend? McNeely asked.

Romney, whose campaign has recently made a push to win votes in parts of the country and among demographic groups that traditionally support Democrats, did attend the NAACP event, at times being jeered and booed by the nearly all black crowd.

“With 90 percent of African Americans voting for Democrats, some of you may wonder why a Republican would bother to campaign in the African-American community, and to address the NAACP,” said Romney during the July speech.

And if Republican candidates today are unwilling or unable to pay more attention to black Republican voters until they drum up more robust numbers, McNeely said, the only answer for these voters will be to work hard to elect more black Republican officials.

In the current election cycle, there are 11 black Republicans vying for a seat in Congress, including Mia Love, the 36-year-old mayor of a small city in the state of Utah, where only three percent of the population is black.

If Love is victorious in her bid, she will become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress in US history.

McNeely said it will take time for Republican candidates, regardless of their race, to secure more support for the Republican Party among black voters.

“It takes time, it takes resources and it has to be ongoing, not just during an election year,” McNeely said.  “We need a change in strategy, and we need to work to build a greater relationship with those who have been in a minority.”

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