You gotta wonder what Newt Gingrich eats for breakfast.
According to the thrice married, much derided former House Speaker, “No administration in modern times has failed younger blacks more than the Obama administration.”
And he said it with a straight face.
Without the benefit of a laugh track, Gingrich pronounced the African-American vote up for grabs. It’s time, he believes, for the Grand Old Party to campaign in black communities across the country. “We have to have the courage to walk into that neighborhood, to talk to that preacher, to visit that small business, to talk to that mother. And we have to have a convincing case that we actually know how to create jobs.”
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Courage is one thing. But Gingrich will have to dust off his magic time machine and effectively undo a history of policy decisions and political shenanigans that have negatively impacted black communities in ways that have and will span generations.
For instance, President Ronald Reagan never supported the use of federal power to provide blacks with civil rights. In fact, he opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1980, Reagan called the landmark legislation “humiliating to the South.” It was Reagan who extolled the virtues of “states rights” when announced his bid for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi where civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Cheney were tortured and murdered. “States rights” and, by extension, the south’s ability to continue the slave trade, was the very issue that lit the fuel on the Civil War.
For Gingrich to be right, we would have to forget about Willie Horton. We’d have to forget a now infamous television ad run by the late North Carolina Senator Jesse Holmes in which he attacked Affirmative Action by saying it took away jobs from hard working, more qualified white people and his 16-hour filibuster against honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday.
We don’t have to go that far back to remember that it was President George W. Bush who left thousands of largely black people to languish and die in New Orlean. It was under the so-called compassionate conservative’s watch that Wall Street bankers pushed credit default swaps and other financial instruments that eventually led to the collapse of the housing marketing and soaring unemployment. The black middle class was effectively obliterated, as African-American wealth dried up.
Gingrich likes to refer to President Obama as the “most successful food stamp president” when it has been historically Republican programs that have forced people into the welfare line. He isn’t alone.
Rep. Michele Bachmann pointed to double-digit unemployment rates among African Americans and Hispanics when she said, “This president has failed the Hispanic community. He has failed the African-American community” when it comes to jobs.
Let’s be clear. President Obama is not guaranteed re-election. There are many plausible roads back to Chicago for the first family. Losing the African American vote to any one the many GOP candidates currently on the stage is not one of them. What’s really at stake here is voter turnout.
If there is one time-honored tactic GOP politicians have mastered, it’s voter suppression. If they can convince black voters that President Obama is a waste of their time, they will stay home. If they lose confidence that the first African-American president can be trusted to deliver change in their lives, to enact policies that create meaningful jobs and pave the road to a better future for their children, they simply will not show up.
Gingrich, Bachmann and others are betting on just that. They’re betting that they can infuse just enough distrust to move the needle their way. Ironically, the very same people who trumpet the power of the democracy, the Constitutional guarantee to participate at the ballot box, would rather have you stay home.