Mitt Romney has a new groove.
Don’t worry. Nobody taught the former Massachusetts governor how to Dougie and, thankfully, he hasn’t been caught singing again.
Earlier today, the Romney campaign announced the formation of its Black Leadership Council. The council, chaired by Reps. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Allen West (R-FL), will “help facilitate dialogue between Mitt Romney and respected leaders who provide unique expertise, experience and knowledge on a range of issues impacting black American communities,” the campaign said. Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis are among the 18 “black leaders.”
What? Or better yet. Who?
It should surprise no one that Romney is struggling to make his case among non-white voters. He has neither policy nor history on his side.
The council is, at best, a tacit admission of that failing and, at worst, a desperate political gambit that engages in the same cynical, tokenistic brand of racial pandering that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Republicans. However, African-Americans, many of whom see President Obama and the first family as part of their own, present a unique quandary. Sixty-two days before Election Day and on the eve of President Barack Obama’s DNC nomination acceptance speech, many found the council announcement baffling and disrespectful, if not downright laughable.
Kim Kardashian and Evelyn Lozanda spent more time in holy matrimony than Romney will spend getting to know black voters.
It’s no wonder a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll spelled disaster. While predictably, President Barack Obama is beating Romney among African-American voters — the president is trouncing his GOP challenger with a mind-boggling 94 percent to zero lead.
True to form, GOP strategist Ron Christie, Rep. West and others place the blame squarely on black voters. Rep. West, the self- professed, modern day Harriett Tubman, has pledged to lead African-Americans along an “underground railroad” away from the Democratic “plantation.” For his part, Christie believes black voters are so caught up with Barack Obama’s skin color, that policy doesn’t matter. If this were true, Jesse Jackson would have the keys to Air Force One and Al Sharpton would be hosting nightly card games at Camp David. Alan Keyes would have retired his political parachutes years ago.
Without question, many black voters find comfort in a president who shares their experiences and, yes, their skin color. The same is true for people of every race, religion, and gender. But to say that it begins and ends there is an insult to African-American voters. One would have to believe that, as a people, African-Americans are willing to mortgage, loan, lease and pawn off their collective future all for the presumed benefits of having someone who looks like them in the Oval Office. One would have to believe that matters of healthcare, education, employment, and housing are less important than the skin someone happens to be born in. To see that myth propagated by other American-Americans is both maddening and hurtful.
The truth is black voters have been lining up for Democrats since southern Dixiecrats fled to the GOP after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts. Those Dixiecrats, best known for their support of states’ rights and Jim Crow-era segregation, put away their water hoses and went to work on a plan to contain and marginalize non-white voters for generations.
First adopted by Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater, the so-called Southern Strategy was the kitty-bar across the door, meant to preserve power and privilege by locking up the South for Republicans. In the time since, party leaders have never bothered to remove the proverbial “whites only” sign hanging on their ideological fence. In fact, it’s been hanging there so long, they don’t even see it. Like that rock at Rick Perry’s family hunt club, it’s time to paint over the sign and engage in an honest dialogue with communities of color.
If Republicans are truly interested in “big tent” politics, they will forgo to shenanigans of organizing with so-called “black leaders” who have no standing in the African-American community. They will roll up their sleeves, walk the neighborhoods, and go door-to-door listening to the hearts and minds of everyday people. They’ve got to learn the issues first hand, then craft meaningful solutions to meet the most pressing needs. Contrary to the old Bell Telephone slogan, long distance is not the next best thing to being there.
Sadly for Romney, who is demonstrably challenged when it comes to connecting with people of diverse backgrounds, it might be easier to show him how to Dougie.
Follow Goldie Taylor on Twitter at @goldietaylor.