Michele Bachmann, the GOP, and the Race Conversation

Recently, while speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Michele Bachmann fervently argued that President Obama has failed the African-American community and the Hispanic community. Bachmann went further to affirm that, in the event of her election as president of the United States, her goal would be to create jobs in these heavily affected minority communities -- and create jobs for Americans as a whole.

While these were merely passing remarks made during her speech, she created seismic waves due to the fact that she deviated from the traditional pusillanimous GOP approach to minority communities by daringly intermingling race with her public policy arguments.  As was noted by liberal Salon, Michele Bachmann is the only GOP candidate to have mentioned the 16.2% black unemployment thus far. One would think that such an obvious policy weakness of Obama's would be something all serious GOP candidates would be hammering at with unyielding ferocity.  Except, of course, none of the other candidates possess the brass that Michele Bachmann has to take on the tough racial issues against America's "first black president." 

Curiously, many people believed that simply because Herman Cain possessed black skin that he would be vigorously articulating public policy arguments highlighting Obama's catastrophic failure in catering to the black community. To the contrary, however, insofar as Herman Cain has mentioned race, it has been to injudiciously deride the black community as being "too poor" to attended white-dominated tea parties.  Herman Cain's reluctance to meaningfully articulate on the issue of race is demonstrative of the folly of demographic politics.  Just because someone possesses black skin does not mean that the black community is close to their heart -- or that such a person will appeal to the black community.

So while GOP candidates are being tight-lipped on the issue of race -- or, in the case of Herman Cain, making cringe-inducing statements on the issue -- Michele Bachmann is confidently articulating in public what most other conservatives are too timid to whisper in passing conversation.  More disconcerting than the other candidates' silence on the crisis in urban America is the manifestly misguided conservative reaction to Bachmann's very shrewd racial public policy arguments. 

As expected, many talking point-wielding conservatives took to forums to angrily advise Michele Bachmann of the obvious fact that Obama has not failed just blacks and Hispanics.  As one FOX Nation commenter states: "I like you Michelle [sic] but leave the race thing on the left where its [sic] always been, [sic] He failed all Americans [sic]."

Clearly, that comment -- albeit unlettered -- cuts to the heart of the issue.  There is a segment of the conservative movement that wants to cloak their obvious timidity vis-à-vis the issue of race by purposefully refusing to acknowledge the difference between making racial public policy arguments and playing demographic politics.  However, there is another group of conservatives that understands the fact that while demographic politics is harmful and benefits nobody, racial public policy arguments are undeniably important to reaching all communities with the conservative message. 

Incontestably, what Bachmann articulated was a racial public policy argument.  She cited the job numbers of different racial groups and argued that Barack Obama has failed those communities during his presidency.  What is the point of collecting job numbers for different ethnic groups if citing them is so unpardonably wrong?  Do the conservatives that decry the citation of ethnic job numbers think that those numbers should only be analyzed by liberals?  Arguing that it is wrong to mix race with public policy argumentation is preposterous.  The fact that this absurdity has sneakily crept into mainstream conservative thought is incredibly ominous for the GOP's future prospects with minorities.

Patently, conservatives are always on the defensive when the issue of race is raised.  Liberals, with the help of timid conservatives, have created what I call an intellectual oligopoly on the topic of race -- that is the only people positing important theories on the issue of race are on the left, so much so that the right does not have a meaningful say on the discussion.  Michele Bachmann decided to do the right thing and actually answer back, yet rather than conservatives backing her up and praising her intrepidness, they are diffidently advising her that the liberal Goliath is just too powerful to retaliate against where race is concerned. 

Yes, it is obvious that Obama has failed all Americans.  However, it is not true that his failure has affected all groups at the same rate.  While it is true that liberalism is deleterious to all people, blacks perform considerably worse under liberalism than other groups in the population.  Conversely, while conservatism is good for all people, blacks perform markedly better than other groups when conservative policies are implemented -- as Reagan demonstrated by increasing black income by 84 percent and dropping unemployment by 9 percentage points. This should be a primary argument that Republicans utilize to bring blacks into the conservative fold.

It is time conservatives come to the realization that blacks will never join the Republican Party without racial public policy arguments directed specifically to them.  In an ideal world, blacks would join the Republican Party without such efforts from the GOP, but the fact of the matter is that Republicans have allowed their reputation to be sullied by allowing decades of liberal lies to go uncontested without the slightest rejoinder.  Republicans have a lot of work to do to counteract the liberal lies that have taken hold in the black community. 

Conservatives have been fooled into believing that the only way to attract blacks to the Republican Party is by giving them "goodies."  Contrary to common conservative wisdom, blacks are capable of understanding politics and economics.  The fundamental problem is that they've only been presented with one sophistical side of the story.  Quite simply, the GOP has not articulated why conservative policies are in the interest of blacks, whereas the left expertly promulgates their message in a carefully packaged way -- complete with carefully tied ribbons of liberal lies and ostentatious bows of Democratic dishonesty.

Colorblind conservatives are quick to blurt out their simplistic talking point suggesting that conservatism is an ideology that champions limited government, determinism and individual responsibility as an excuse not to talk about race.  While all sensible people subscribe to these principles, what colorblind conservatives fail to convince me -- and presumably Michele Bachmann -- about is how it is a conservative position to see certain segments of society struggling under the oppression of liberalism, while keeping quiet about where the oppression hits hardest because the majority of people affected are of a certain race.  Inner city minorities are suffering at alarming rates and all colorblind conservatives have to offer as a solution is: "Shhhh! We don't talk about race." 

Manifestly, we do not need specialist policies for minorities.  The bonds we share as humans trump the infinitesimal differences of race.  That notwithstanding, however, it is simply wrongheaded to think that using race as a conduit to promote conservatism is something that ought to be avoided.  Conservatism looks magnificent through the lens of race, whereas liberalism looks awful through the very same lens.  However, conservatives imprudently dismiss race altogether, without understanding that they are missing a critical opportunity to promote conservative ideas to populations that have traditionally eluded them.

Superciliously pointing lecturing fingers at conservatives who dare to speak out about the disaster that liberalism has caused in minority communities does nothing to solve the problem of monolithic voting.  Similarly, manufacturing stunningly fallacious arguments about conservatism possessing an inherent anti-race component does nothing to help advance conservative ideas. 

Michele Bachmann is the most intelligent and serious candidate for president of United States that the GOP possesses.  She has the policy expertise and the credentials required to be taken seriously.  The fact that she is doing the hard work of articulating the racial public policy arguments that the Republican men are too timid to voice just makes her all the more formidable.

Bachmann understands that there is no reason for minority communities to be the exclusive property of the Democratic Party.  It is a shame the rest of the GOP candidates seem too preoccupied with eating caviar at expensive restaurants to bother articulating racial public policy arguments to help inner-city minorities.

Chidike Okeem is a freelance writer. You can contact him at mrokeem@gmail.com. His blog on politics and culture can be read at www.voiceofchid.com