Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Why Am I (Still) Not A Democrat?

Last week, I asked, "Why Am I (Still) A Republican?"

I shared the frustrations that I, as a black GOPer, felt over various Republican statements during the Katrina aftermath. That turned out to be the most widely-read post in the brief history of RAGGED THOTS and elicited over a 100 comments spread between that and a follow-up post that constituted an extended response to a number of comments (especially from the always-prolific Steven J. Kelso of Ohio).

Well, a few readers noted that I never fully answered the original question. The simple reason for that -- it is a complex query, mixing intellectual views, upbringing and temperament.

However, what is easier to answer is: Why don't I just pack it in and cross the aisle (metaphorically speaking) and join the Democrats (understanding that they won't exactly reflect my generally libertarian beliefs)?

The reason for that? Well, it is because it has been made only too clear what Democrats have to offer me -- or anyone who might share some of my rather idiosyncratic views. After listing the comments of Dennis Hastert, Barbara Bush and Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) in the earlier entry and the obstacles that they presented to those interested in trying to reach out to just about any non-traditional Republican audience, I thought it appropriate to now turn the tables and see how the rank-and-file black Democrat feels about their GOP counterparts.

Consider then the testimony of Mr. Steve Gilliard in his response,
"Why Are You A Republican, Bob?"

At the outset, let me apologize to Mr. Gilliard for misspelling his name in my original item. Considering I chastised him for doing the same with my friend Deroy Murdock, I should have been more careful.

That said, here is Steve's almost exhaustive descriptive catalogue for those black folks that dare line up under the Republican banner: "s-l-a-v-e", "slave", "pathetic clowns," "token...negro," "house negro." How many real, live, actual white racists feel so comfortable in their racism to use these words in public? Steve is obviously not so shy.

Note, too, the use of the diminutive familiar of my name, "Bob." That, too, has a history in the American drama of race. In Jim Crow, the white man didn't show any respect to the "negro," so he never had to call him by any name that would connote any equality.

And, forget, of course, the need to actually know anything about one's supposed inferior.

Steve charges, "You never confront your racist party members, you never challenge their racist words and plans, and you wonder why most black people hold you in contempt?" Oh right, I never confront my party or critique it on race matters -- or anything else. It must have been someone else -- maybe that guy from Princeton -- who wrote this. And this. And this. And this. And, for that matter, this.

In fact, just looking at the comments from last week, and it can be seen that more than a few people read it in the spirit that it was meant -- a direct challenge to my fellow Republicans, reminding them of the impact of their words. Those words, though, were not explicitly racial. At worst, they betrayed a class blindness that has no place in politics. Does their class-ism betray an inner racism? I don't know. They certainly don't go so far as "nigger," which Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) used in a televised interview not too long ago. The one-time Klansman says that his use of the word doesn't mean that he still harbors racist thoughts. If we take him at his word, perhaps the same should be done with the GOP trio. Perhaps they should be given a pass.

I chose not to, because I thought that keeping these viewpoints hidden serves no purpose.

However, none of the words uttered by these GOpers are laced with the overt historically demeaning and racist venom that seeps throughout Steve Gilliard's post. One response is that, "Black people can use these words; we can take them back, just like rappers have taken the N-to-the-I-to-the-Double-G-A slur." Well, on the latter one, there is much debate: Hip-hop has managed re-introduce into everyday language a hateful word that all but the most blatant racist refrained from everr using in public.

Too early to say whether Steve will be successful in sparking some revival in massa-slave linguistics. Perhaps they will only be used in this most narrow of circumstances -- as rhetorical bullwhips to be used on the treacherous black conservatives who need to be made into examples. Responding to a commenter, Steve adds, "[Ohio Secretary of State] Ken Blackwell, [Maryland Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele and the rest of the Uncle Toms will wind up like Alan Keyes, despised by blacks and unelected by whites."

Wow. It takes a pretty drastic "they-all-look-alike" sensibility to lump Blackwell and Steele into the same basket as Alan Keyes. But there you have it.

Anyway, since this rhetorical whipping in the fields wasn't enough, Steve elevates a commenter,
Lower Manhattanite to get in additional licks. LM introduces a high-minded critique of my televised "froggy, little visage," goes after us newbies who must be "racism and self-hate damaged Black folks" eager to replace "dinosaur Toms." To the Lower Manhattanite, I am "'Boy' George" (now, there's an original one) and my colleagues are a "buck-dancing band."

Lower Manhattanite, of course, demonstrates a certain tortured logic in this attack:
(How small is the Black Republican wave? Let Bobby say it himself: Two lifelong African American Republicans the same age in D.C. who've never met? As sparse as Black GOP'ers are in D.C. and these guys have never crossed paths? Case rested, baby.)
One could actually infer exactly the opposite -- there are actually so many black Republicans that it isn't completely out of the ordinary that we actually all haven't met one another -- have all you black Democrats met? Oh, and I never said that both men have lived in D.C. all their lives. Just that they both happen to be there now. Please pay attention.

Following Steve's lead, LM dubs me, "Bobby" and continues with the racial barrage: "shifty", "lawn jockeys" and concludes by referring to me as "the kid" (ah, calling a 40-year old man a "kid" -- Jim Crow white overseers couldn't have done any better).

Former Rep. Floyd Flake, a minister and president of an historically black college, is an "Uncle Tom." Why? Because he dared actually work with Republicans to bring resources to his district and his church -- oh, yeah, and believed that creating options to the disastrous public school status quo might actually be in the best interests of black people.

And so, the answer on why I'm still a Republican lingers, but Steve Gilliard and his friend help clarify why I'm not a Democrat: A party with members that seem to feel the need to brandish racist imagery as a disciplinary bullwhip, without even attempting to engage an opponent intellectually, has a great deal of problems. Indeed, Gilliard and Company are good representatives of a party that appears to do little to woo supporters beyond "Republicans are Evil/Racist" platitudes.

As for me, I'm Robert -- not "Bob", "Bobby", or some "poor kid." I am a black man living in America in the 21st century. At various times, I may be frustrated, reflective, angry, disappointed -- and more -- over my political choices and allies. However, if the alternative is the world view that Steve Gilliard and Lower Manhattanite offer, well, I'll stay over on this side of the fence for the time being, thank you very much.

(For an example of a black man who seems actually interested in opening give-and-take space on issues of party and identity, check the blog of one of the newer visitors to these parts,
Alton Darwin. Welcome, Mr. Darwin.)

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