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GOP courting the black vote on moral issues, with success
The Philadelphia Inquirer ^ | 3/6/05 | Dick Polman

Posted on 03/06/2005 9:11:37 AM PST by LdSentinal

To understand why President Bush and the Republicans are gaining political strength in the black community, consider these remarks by Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., senior pastor at a 2,500-member church in College Park, Md.:

"I'm a registered Democrat, and I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but now I'm a vehement supporter. Look at the moral issues. The black family is under siege in this culture, and something like same-sex marriage will take us right down the slippery slope. When I heard Bush say he supported a constitutional amendment to ban it, well, that made sense to me. Sacred rights are different from civil rights.

"The Democrats are being held hostage by their gay-rights agenda. They ignored black issues until the last weeks of the campaign. For me, that put salt in the wounds. I thought: 'Now they want to come to the churches and ask for votes? How dare they?' So I'm working with the Republicans now. And if the President follows through on reaching out to us, then more of the masses in the churches will be open to the Republicans in national elections."

Nervous Democrats fear Jackson may be right. African Americans have been loyal to the party since the civil-rights era, but Bush and the Republicans, in their drive to build a sustaining majority, are now poised to grab a significant slice of that electorate. If they can draw 20 percent of the black vote in pivotal states with large urban populations - an achievable goal - the Democrats would face serious hurdles in future presidential races.

The warning signs were obvious in November. Bush won only 11 percent of the black vote nationwide, but that figure is misleading. He drew 16 percent in pivotal Ohio (nearly doubling his 2000 share). Without the bigger black vote, he would have eked out a slim victory, narrow enough for a Democratic court challenge. Bush also drew 16 percent of the black vote in Pennsylvania (up from 7 percent in 2000), and that's one reason his loss to Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) was far narrower than expected.

Today, Bush and the GOP are networking on all fronts - black churches, black colleges, black business groups - and promoting not only their conservative social agenda (which attracts many black churchgoers), but also their faith-based community program (which offers federal money to pastors) and their bid to partially privatize Social Security (which posits the argument that blacks, on average, don't live long enough to fully reap the benefits of traditional Social Security).

Bush's black allies are networking, too. Bishop Jackson - who has crafted a "Black Contract with America on Moral Values," and who, along with 200 other pastors, plans to present it in New York City next month - is still a Democrat. But he's working these days with Louis Sheldon, the veteran religious conservative leader who partnered with the Bush campaign last year to help craft the strategy for black Christian outreach.

Jackson and many others have received no faith-based money - because not much has been spread around. But Bush has benefited politically anyway; as former White House aide David Kuo wrote recently in an article posted online: "There wasn't enough money around to buy anyone [in 2004]... . But the [program] sent a resounding political message to all faith-based constituencies: President Bush cares about you."

Democrats, stuck in reactive mode, are voicing dismay about these GOP-black flirtations. Julianne Malveaux, a black Democratic activist, said her party "ought to be concerned, because, by and large, we have taken the African American vote for granted. The Republicans have gotten to a lot of these ministers, and they preach to large congregations every week. Democrats will have to fight for those people now."

Black political analyst Ron Walters, a former campaign deputy to Jesse Jackson, said: "Bush has a long-range plan [for outreach], and he's putting some money behind it. They'll gin up the faith-based money so that it reaches more people. That's how politics works. Democrats can't win anymore with just a 'drive-by' strategy - showing up right before an election."

Nevertheless, some Bush critics dismiss the GOP's efforts. They laugh at the House Republicans' newly released "Freedom Calendar," which lauds the party's record on civil rights without mentioning, among other things, the Southern white flight to the GOP in the late 1960s, triggered by Democratic-led crusades for desegregation and voting rights; the senior George Bush's TV ads during his 1988 presidential campaign that sowed fears of black criminals; and the current white, Southern conservative dominance of the national GOP.

Earlier this winter, cable TV mogul Robert Johnson, a black leader who is close to Bush, tried to organize a meeting of prominent blacks to consider this question: "Should African Americans continue to vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party?" He received a letter of response from NAACP chairman Julian Bond, who argued that since the Republican agenda would imperil the federal safety net and expose blacks to "the vicissitudes of the marketplace," it would be "the height of idiocy" to shift allegiance to Bush's party.

Undeterred, the White House, having gained ground with moral issues, has opened a second front - the marketplace - by arguing that partially privatizing Social Security will benefit blacks. This campaign has failed thus far. A national poll released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows that black support for the idea has dropped since December, from 50 percent to 36 percent - perhaps because the sale to blacks hinges on a controversial argument.

Bush framed it in January: "African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair," because black males get less Social Security retirement money than whites. He said that if black males were allowed to "build a nest egg of their own," by diverting some of their Social Security taxes into the stock market, they would leave more money to their survivors.

Critics say Bush's facts are selective. He never mentions that blacks, far more than whites, use the full range of Social Security options, which include disability and survivor benefits. And blacks, who on average earn less than whites, get a higher rate of return on their payroll contributions, because benefits are skewed to give extra help to the less affluent. All told, a 2003 report by the General Accounting (now Government Accountability) Office concluded that blacks get more out of Social Security than whites.

Stats aside, some blacks are insulted by Bush's argument. Malveaux said: "For him to use lower black life expectancy as a selling tool is cruelly cynical. Blacks die sooner because of poverty and bad health care - the stuff that conservatives don't talk about. They want to change Social Security over the next 40 years, but they don't talk about raising black life expectancy over the next 40 years."

Fortunately for Bush, many blacks in his camp care most about his character.

The Rev. Herb Lusk, pastor at Greater Exodus Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, said: "You have to admire the man. My mother died last week, and the President personally called the Tennessee church where the funeral was being held. Then he faxed a letter to the church and signed it George. "

And Lusk wants more blacks to consider the GOP: "I just think it's bad strategy for 95 percent of our people to be riding in one boat as it goes downstream."

But even Bishop Jackson said Bush and the Republicans had only begun to make the sale: "I'm out there being a soldier now for those people. But if they don't deliver - on education, jobs, wealth creation, reversing the family breakdown - then I'll reconsider again in 2008. There are too many people hurting for us to simply settle for a bunch of ideology and talk."


TOPICS: News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: black; blackchurch; blackvote; churches; culturewars; gaymarriage; gop; moral; outreach; values

1 posted on 03/06/2005 9:11:43 AM PST by LdSentinal
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To: LdSentinal

About a month ago I was listening to a "Focus on the Family" radio broadcast. Dr. James Dobson was discussing Biblical values with a group of *Democratic* black pastors.

The pastors acknowleged Bush's moral leadership and vowed to work with Dr. Dobson to politically advance Biblical values.


2 posted on 03/06/2005 9:31:22 AM PST by AngrySpud (Behold, I am The Anti-Crust ... Anti-Hillary)
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: LdSentinal

Democrats are still fighting the Civil War. Republicans have moved on.


4 posted on 03/06/2005 10:22:06 AM PST by randita
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To: LdSentinal

"...but also their faith-based community program (which offers federal money to pastors)..."

Ah, enlightened self-interest.


5 posted on 03/06/2005 10:36:27 AM PST by decal ("The French should stick to kisses, toast and fries.")
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To: LdSentinal

"...but also their faith-based community program (which offers federal money to pastors)..."

Ah, enlightened self-interest.


6 posted on 03/06/2005 10:37:22 AM PST by decal ("The French should stick to kisses, toast and fries.")
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To: LdSentinal

In the near by future, there will be a new "Jackson" speaking for Black America. Bishop Jackson is a great new addition to our team.


7 posted on 03/06/2005 3:57:12 PM PST by jmaroneps37 (In dealing with liberals remember When you wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and he loves it.)
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