Conscience of a Black Conservative

On April 29th I appeared on the WGBH talk show ‘Basic Black’, which is a program dedicated to discussing the social and economic issues of the day and how those issues pertain to the African-American community.  During the course of the show I was asked why the African-American community and other communities of color should look to the Republican Party as an effective alternative to the loyalty those communities have donkey-and-elephantbeen showing the Democratic Party.  I have to admit here that at the time my response was not some of my best work, but as I left the studio and over the next several days I began to ponder the question more and more.  I thought about my own ideological journey–how I went from being raised in a Democratic family to becoming a republican. I thought about the historical shift that Blacks have made from the party of Lincoln to Democrats–the very political party that has historically tried to block every single social advancement African-Americans have tried to make in this country.  As I thought about all of these things I started to formulate in my head the response I wish I had used on the show.

First let me say that I truly believe that the majority of Democrats and people who support the Democratic Party, have good intentions and truly want to make our country a better place.  However unlike the majority of Democrats and their supporters, I believe that is true of Republicans as well; I would not be a Republican otherwise.  For me the difference between the two parties is that the Republican Party believes the way forward for our country is to empower individuals, families, and communities to be the key decision makers of our own destinies.  Entrepreneurialship and creativity, free from stifling government regulations, overreach and control, is the best way to grow and advance our society.  A majority of Democrats on the other hand, believe the best way to advance our society is to celebrate and empower “The Group.” They believe that the machinery of government will create a more robust and justice society. 

So what does this mean for the Black community and why should it view the Republican Party as a reasonable alternative?  That’s look at the evidence.

The majority of Blacks have supported the Democratic Party since the late 1940’s and during all of that time, I would argue that we as a people have both embraced and received a disproportionate amount of the Democratic Party’s philosophy and policies, and we should now be asking where are the results?

  • Black unemployment of 13.2 percent is almost double the nation’s unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.
  • 70 percent of Black children are born out of wedlock and raised in fatherless homes.
  • Blacks live in poverty at a higher percentage rate than any other racial/ethnic subgroup.
  • A 2007 special report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, revealed that 8,000 and in some years as many as 9000 Blacks are murdered annually in our country, and 93 percent of those crimes were committed by other Blacks.  In 2005 alone Blacks were 49 percent of all homicide victims in the United States.

Let’s put those numbers into perspective: 6,400 brave men and women gave their lives for our country fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of ten years.  In 1989, 8,000 Blacks lost their lives due to Black on Black violence– that number was equal to the total number of the brave Black serviceman who lost their lives fighting for our country during the entire 10 year-long Vietnam war!  

hands_11Many studies show the high school dropout rate for Black males is close to 50 percent.  The achievement gap between Black students and their White and Asian counter parts is way too high, and the dropout rate for Black high school students, especially males, is quickly reaching red line status. 

The majority of Blacks voted for President Obama in 2008 and for re-election in 2012 out of racial pride and from the belief that a black President would address the needs of our community.  However Ben Jealous (the very liberal) President and CEO of the NAACP famously said Black Americans, “are doing far worse than when President Obama first took office.” It should also be noted that while Blacks are still casting votes for Democratic candidates, they are beginning to vote with their feet.  The latest Census shows waves of Blacks leaving blue states and moving south to red states. Many of the reasons for this reverse great migration is they are looking for better job 2012-07-05-unionbutton500opportunities, lower property and income taxes, better social conditions and better educational opportunities for their children.  What this translates to is the failure of liberal democratic social policy that has been centered on improving the lives of Blacks for the past fifty years.  Those well-intentioned programs have created nightmare situations all across our country’s inner cities. Democratic economic policies have hurt the type of creativity in the private sector that leads to jobs. The alliance between the Democratic Party and Unions has left far too many Blacks out of good paying jobs, and Blacks have responded to that by moving to red states where right to work laws prevail.

So what would be the Republican Party’s alternative to these failures?  Once again let’s look at the record and put facts with my opinions.  The Republican perspective comes with the belief in economic freedom, competition, and law and order, and those beliefs led to some of the most effective policies in making the same type of cities that Blacks are fleeing from, better places to live.  Edward L. Glaeser wrote an article for City Journal titled; The GOP and the City, and in it Glaesar points out some important facts.  He talks about how some of our greatest cities are safer today than they were twenty years ago thanks to Republican leadership, citing Los Angeles and New York as examples.  When it comes to public safety, conservatives seek effective policing policy, while liberals sought redistributive social policies because they believe poverty causes crime.  Glaeser points out that the expansive government programs of the “Great Society” coincided with rapidly rising crime rates in our urban areas, and the past decades have vindicated the conservative approach. 

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Republicans of course, are the inventors and champions of real education reform, putting forward market-based solutions for our troubled public school system, that Black families in overwhelming numbers grave.  School choice, school vouchers, charter schools, accountability in underperforming schools, teacher testing, and The No Child Left Behind act.  Republicans also champion keeping taxes down by keeping the cost of government down, by letting private companies bid on providing public services instead of the monopoly of public workers and their unions, who drive up the cost as all monopolies do, causing taxes to go higher, instead of working families keeping more of their own hard-earned money. 

Democrats and liberals also believe themselves to be the real champions of affordable housing. Here again the facts show them following short and Republicans leading the way to true affordable housing.  In many blue affod housingstates, especially in our cities, the regulations, permitting, and zoning process is so arduous that it has created a fixed housing supply that would otherwise not exist.  When you have demand combined with a fix supply, the cost to the consumer soars.  My own state of Massachusetts, where every elected Democrat will swear on a stack of bibles that they are for affordable housing for the poor, is one of the least affordable states in the nation.  Meanwhile redder than Red Texas is booming with affordable housing. Why?  Massachusetts has regulations on top of regulations that are just pushing prices upward, but Texas follows the free market and has a healthy distaste for regulations. (See “The Texas Growth Machine”). 

There is a saying from Talmudic philosophy; “The noblest charity is to prevent a man from accepting charity; and the best alms is to show and enable a man to dispense with alms”.

At the end of the day African –Americans need to broaden their political perspective and put all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, through a true substantive test.  Being for the party with the best presentation/image or the policy that simply sounds the most altruistic, or for the party that says it is on your side, or fighting for you–without the actual effective policies to back up the rhetoric– is not going to improve our lives or our communities. 

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More Laws? Or More Personal Responsibility? You Decide.

The gun control debt is once again under way across our country. In fact it could be argued that until the terrorist attack on my city during the Boston marathon, it was the biggest story.  After the horrific crime committed in Newton, Connecticut every reporter, blogger, politician, talking head, and pundit had something to say.  At the time, I chose to remain quiet, part out of respect to the victims of the crime but more so because I strongly believe that three things should never be devImageeloped from emotion: policy, opinions, and decisions. Emotions often lead to poor product from all three of them.  I can only wish that lawmakers felt the same way. Would it not be great that instead of rushing for the nearest camera to announce the filling of new legislation and policy, they would instead step back and think?  But since that is not going to happen anytime soon, I will now weigh in on a few points.

I will start with the obvious: passing laws means nothing to law breakers. If someone is willing to take a life, the ultimate crime, then they are not going to stop at breaking any of the laws that would fall under capital murder in order of severity.   When confronted with this common sense viewpoint, gun control proponents say that we should at least make it harder for criminals and terrorists to get a hold of guns, and I must confess I am not sure what the logic is here, other than logic has nothing to do with it.  The one thing we know is that the perpetrators of the mass killings that spur these knee jerk reaction-call for new laws, haveImage been planning their attacks for some time.  The key word here is planning. We make plans to deal with the challenges and obstacles to our goals.  Furthermore our country’s history and present experience tells us that making things harder for criminals just makes other criminals a whole lot richer and more powerful. After all, criminal empires are built on providing what has been prohibited to those who want it. 

The reality is that while crimes like Newton, CT capture the attention of the majority of us, there are non-headline grabbing crimes taking place on a daily basis in our country, especially in our major cities were the highest rates of gun violence are often found.  In the case of gun violence in the cities, it is more often than not, a situation where assault rifles are neither used nor high-capacity clips.  Yet I believe all thinking people would agree we have an epidemic of gun violence taking place in our inner cities.  Many of the mayors of those cities have been calling for tighter gun control for years, despite the fact that many of those cities and the states they are already located in already have some of the strictest control laws that exist.  Because of this there is a strong school of thought that says we should be enforcing the gun laws that we already have. I happen to agree with that school of thought but I would add cultural norms to the equation, at least when we are talking about inner city gun violence in the African-American community.

Last week I was on Facebook and came across a video that was posted on a friend’s timeline. The video from WordStar hipHop.com shows what they say is an unarmed man who was shot by the police while fleeing from them.  Now I while not even bother to take on whether or not that is true or the part about fleeing from the police.  Instead what I am interested in is the reaction from the bystanders.  You can see in the video that a large crowd begins to gather when word begins to spread that the police have allegedly shot an unarmed man.  The people are very angry and begin to yell and curse the police– their passion is inflamed and they want justice.  The police begin to arrive in force to control both the crime scene and the ever-growing crowd.  As I watched the crowd grew and the anger of the people rose as they demanded to know why the police shot the man.  It was at this point I began to think about every other shooting scene I have personally witnessed, either on the news or unfortunately in person, having lived a number of years in the inner-city myself.  In each and every one of those instances there were no crowds demanding why or talking to the police at all.  In fact the police are having trouble finding anyone at all to talk to them and share what has happened.  This is quite a contrast, when it is Black on Black violence there is no outrage. No one is demanding answers. However if there is the thought that the police may have shot someone, then there is outrage and marches and politicians from the community demanding justice and investigations. 

Can you imagine if the community displayed that type of involvement for the majority of shootings that take place in our community, the ones that do not involve the police?  If we just Imagedid that, we could stamp out the gun violence in our communities which in itself could result in major reduction in our country’s gun violence. Wouldn’t it be something if every time there was a shooting in the community, the community would mobilize, demand witnesses come forward, hold marches and rallies where community leaders and politicians would condemn the perpetrators and vilify such actions to the point of shaming anyone who would dare give aid and comfort to those responsible? If this were to happen would we still need new gun control laws?