This paper says that many black Americans are conservative in their political ideology but given the marriage of conservatism and racism in the Republican Party avoid that party and vote for the Democratic Party. It says that some of the ideas stood for by liberals are revolting to many black conservatives. The question now is how to dissociate the Republican Party from racism so as to make it once more appealing to black conservatives.
Is Liberalism Always Good For Black Folk?
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
In the USA the Democratic Party (America’s version of liberal party...which is different from the British notion of liberal party) practically has a lock on black folk’s votes; they typically obtain upwards of ninety percent of the black vote (Obama obtained 96% of the black vote). This was not always so.
It was the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln that fought slavery and gave black folk emancipation from slavery. Black folk used to flock to the Republican Party until Roosevelt’s party realignment in the 1930s and finally after Goldwater’s overt racism in the 1964 Presidential election (he was opposed to civil rights bills); in the 1964 election black folk flocked to the Party of Lyndon Johnson (he championed civil rights bills) where they have remained ever since.
When black folk flocked to the Democratic Party white folks (in the South) who used to be primarily members of the Democratic Party flocked to the Republican Party. The two parties are now realigned, one representing progressivism and the other representing racism. The Republican Party used to be the liberal progressive party; the Democratic Party used to be the racist party; those roles have switched parties.
One understands why black folk vote for the Democratic Party (the Party represents some semblance of fairness in the land) but the question remains: is it good for black folks to always vote for liberals?
To answer this question I have to explicate what political parties and political ideologies are and how they operate in America. So bear with me as I do what may seem unnecessary elaboration of the subject; I like to look at an issue as completely as is possible.
Europe before the 1700s was ruled by Kings and aristocrats (who claimed divine right to rule the people) so debate about the nature of political parties was out of the question.
In 1776 Americans separated from their mother country, England and her king, George 111. Americans opted to be democratic (please don’t laugh; let us accept America’s rhetoric that it is democratic; America is a plutocracy). England fought its thirteen colonies but lost and America emerged an independent country. In 1787 a new federal constitution was written to replace the old Articles of Confederation under which the colonies had operated. A new government was formed; Congress was elected and George Washington was selected the President. Members of Congress immediately fell into two factions: Federalists and Anti federalists. These two factions became the basis of the current two political parties in America.
The Anti-Federalists wanted each state to be more or less independent of the central government; they wanted America to still be a confederation of sorts whereby states told the center what it did and not the other way around (they were and still are characterized by belief in state rights, a code word for maintaining slavery). The other faction championed a strong federal government and weak states.
The folks from the East Coast such as Adams, Hamilton etc. were the leaders of the Federalists faction whereas folks from southern slave states, such as Thomas Jefferson, were in favor of strong states (they did not want the central government to interfere in their practice of slavery). Thus, right from the get go of the Republic the North East was different from the South.
The federalist and anti-federalist parties evolved to what we now call the two parties of America. In the 1820s President Andrew Jackson essentially transformed the anti-federalists to the Democratic Party. In the 1850s President Abraham Lincoln transformed the (Whig) federalist’s party to the Republican Party. Thus, since the 1860s America has had two political Parties: The Democratic Party (originally in the South) and The Republican Party (originally in the North East).
In the 1930s President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt was elected the president of these United States of America. He began to realign the political parties; the realignment was completed in the 1960s.
Party realignment means rearranging the focus of the party and who joins it. In the past the Republican Party fought for what we now call liberal policies and Democrats were the party of the South, the Dixie party, the party of Jim Crow, but with the realignment roles were changed. These days the focus of the two parties have changed: Republicans have embraced the role of championing white interests and opposing black interests and as would be expected white racists (especially in the South) flocked to the Republican Party.
When Democrats like LBJ (President Johnson) tried to extend civil rights to black folks white Southerners in droves left the Democratic Party of their fathers and joined the Republican Party of Northerners and transformed it into a racist party. Thus, today the Democratic Party appears to be concentrated outside the South (where it originated).
The West coast, from California to Oregon and Washington generally vote Democratic Party; the Northeast generally votes Democratic Party.
The South and the islands of little population in the center of the country generally vote Republican. Since most Americans live on either of the Coasts so the Democratic Party is still strong despite the fact that in area of land the Republicans are larger (these days the two areas are called red states and blue states; red for Republican and blue for Democratic).
America is characterized by the presence of two large political parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; third parties occasionally spring up but the political culture does not encourage them hence tend to die with the death of the strong personalities that generated them. The two main political parties make life very difficult for other would be political parties; enormous obstacles are placed on the path of those trying to form new political parties, such as obtaining impossible number of signatures of citizens to even register their party.
Politics is war by peaceful means so the current two parties see any other party (say, socialist, communist) as a challenge and fight and destroy them. Such is political realism so let us not shed tears for these matters.
Although I am not interested in explicating the role of political parties in the human polity, since political parties carry political ideologies and we are here dealing with political ideologies, I am obligated to define political parties, albeit briefly.
Political parties are associations of men and women with similar political ideology: people who have similar belief as to how their government and society ought to be organized. Each of us has an idea as to how he wants his government to be organized. The individual joins the political party whose ideas of how the human polity ought to be organized fits his own ideas.
Political ideologies represent certain philosophical beliefs regarding human nature, and how society ought to be organized; those beliefs inform the various political parties; thus people gravitate to political parties/ideologies that fit their perception of social reality.
Political parties compete for political offices and the one that wins forms the government and tries to get the government to do those things it believes governments should do.
Since other political parties have different political ideologies obviously they do not always appreciate what the party in power does so they oppose it and campaign to win the next election and dismantle its public polices and replaces them with its own public policies. These way political parties are at war with each other and the battle continues ad infinitum.
As long as human beings are different and have different perceptions of the role of government they would probably form different parties to fight and capture the governments.
Political parties articulate their member’s aspirations, campaign and capture governments and run governments.
Interests groups, unlike political parties, do not want to form governments but try to influence the government’s public policies in their favor. Interest group politics though like political party politics is different in this one instance: it wants to influence government but not form government; political parties want to form governments.
Since political parties are rooted in political ideologies, let me spend some time talking about political ideologies.
A political ideology is a philosophy (not a science) of how society and its government ought to be organized. Each of us has an idea of what he thinks human beings ought to be like, how people ought to behave, how societies ought to be organized and how governments ought to be organized. Please note that I said how society “ought to be”; what ought to be is not what is.
What is, is in the realm of science (science studies what is, not what should be); what ought to be is a wish; a wish is in the realm of beliefs.
Science does not ask the question why, but how. For example, the question why do people live is not a scientific question; it is in the realm of philosophy and religion; only the individual can answer the question why he lives or why he should live (he can always kill himself).
Science answers the question how; we see a world that exists; why it exists we do not know but we can understand how it operates. Once we study and understand how the world operates we can devise technologies to manipulate the laws of the world and in so doing adapt to it more effectively.
Political ideology is not and cannot be a science for it represents men’s hopes and wishes of how things ought to be but not how they are in fact.
Men have different conceptions of who human beings are (human nature), how society ought to be organized and how governments ought to be organized. There are infinite political ideologies but for the sake of simplicity let us discuss the major ones: liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, fascism and also economic ideologies, such as mercantilism, capitalism and corporatism.
Political liberals have a certain image of human beings and ideas on how they should be governed. They tend to believe in the power of the environment; the environment is seen as having great impact on people’s lives. Your inherited body and your social experience are environmental forces that you do not have control over. Those two environmental forces influence you a whole lot. Your inherited body probably affects how smart or dumb you are; your social experiences probably determine what schools you attended hence what kind of work you obtain and your life chances and outcomes.
Liberals see us as victims of our environment. They therefore want to use the power of government to ameliorate the effects of environmental forces arrayed against us.
We know that we must go to school to obtain information with which we obtain jobs. The poor do not have the money to pay high school feels. Liberals therefore want to enact public policies that say that society should pay for all children’s school fees.
Liberals want to use the power of government to give most people advantages that otherwise they do not have. Liberals want to give all children public education; give all people health insurance; give the poor subsidized housing and public transportation and so on.
Simply stated, the liberal wants to use the government to help the people. This seems nice, does it not; why would anyone oppose any of these liberal do good ideas?
Alas, a government that provides for the people what they need must be a big and powerful government. Yes, no?
A powerful government may not be good for your psychological health for it can tell you what to do. After the terrorists 9-11 attacks at New York, the US government passed the Patriots Act; that legislation enables the government to actually listen to people’s telephones, routinely read their emails, know where they go to on the Internet, what books they check out of libraries etc. Folk’s civil liberties are eroded by big governments.
In the former Soviet Union government was so powerful that the people had no civil liberties, no civil rights, and no nothing! The people were slaves of the monolithic communist government.
The conservative political ideology wants to conserve what is good in society and limit the size of government so that it does not overwhelm the people’s civil liberties.
In the 1600s, England was going through bloody revolutions. The king’s head was chopped off and Oliver Cromwell ruled as a dictator. There was an intellectual debate as to the proper role of government. These debates shape what in the Anglo-Saxon world we now call political philosophy (add Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics and Machiavelli’s Prince).
Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan) tells us that man in the state of nature is a predatory animal and the strong enslaved or killed the weak and a band of the weak killed the strong and thus life was nasty, brutish and short for all people. People did not like the general insecurity they lived in and selected one of them and made him their king and gave him the right to make laws that protected all of them; the king, Leviathan, monster was authorized to arrest, try and kill those who oppose his laws; he is to do whatever he does in the pursuit of giving the people social security. In pursuit of security, Hobbes tells us, people should have a king; indeed, an absolute monarch for it takes a strong government to get people not to harm each other.
Hobbes has a point but his envisaged government was too powerful for the individual’s good; absolute monarchs do oppress the people. John Locke (Second Essay on Government) came along and said that Hobbes is correct; however, the only way to prevent oppression is to have a clear delineation of the proper function of government; and give government limited functional areas and leave the individual to be. Yes, we need government otherwise we kill each other but we can limit our government to performing only umpire role, punish those who did not play by the rules but otherwise not be too powerful. Locke is associated with the idea of limited, small government.
While the English men were deliberating on the nature of Government the French were also doing the same. Jean Jacques Rousseau (Social Contract) in 1760 wrote that everywhere civilized men are found they live in chains (whereas they are born free). How did this come to be? He attributed our slavery in society to the existence of Kings and aristocrats. Thus, he wants us to off the heads of monarchs and aristocrats so as to regain our will to rule ourselves. You see the red man, the Indian in America, the noble savage as Rousseau called him, lived free whereas the so-called civilized people of Europe lived like the slaves of their kings.
Rousseau’s writing led to the chopping off of the French King’s head and the chopping of his wife’s head from its beautiful neck. Let the masses eat cake.
Ideas have power. Rousseau is generally seen as the pen that brought about the French revolution. Alas, when that revolution began it kind of went out of Control. In 1789 the French threw out the rascals that lived at what we now call the Louvre in Paris and at Versailles thirty miles away in the country side. The Jacobins went crazy and were guillotining any person seen as having benefited from the ancient regime. Even mere intellectuals were seen as positing the ideas that supported the ancient regime and were guillotined.
The Irish man, Edmund Burke, a Tory member of the English Parliament was horrified by what he saw going on in France. He wrote a book of reflections on the French revolution, a book that is now the Conservative bible.
Burke began by telling us that society evolved over thousands of years. Generally, accepted culture has been tested by time and seen as useful. Institutions that survive are those that serve some social good. Now, in the French revolution the Jacobins simply threw out old institutions regardless of the good they serve society and the result was chaos, a chaos that only a return to some sort of monarchy (Napoleon Bonaparte’s interregnum) arrested.
Burke is telling us that there are things in our world that do us some good and that we should hesitate throwing them away just because a neurotic like Rousseau said that we could have an ideal society on earth. Do not throw the baby away (just because it cries) with the bathwater. Try to figure out what is good in your world and preserve it and then change what must be changed, for the alternative is chaos and anarchy, a return to Hobbes state of Nature (that calls for a new King as the French got in Napoleon and the Russians got in Joseph Stalin).
The political conservative embraces Locke’s and Burke’s ideas. The conservative says, in effect, let us have government but a limited government with carefully delineated roles lest it become too big and destroy our civil liberties; and let us conserve what is good in our past.
In the context of America, conservatives define government as only allowed to perform one function: give the people national security (via strong police, jails, judges, military etc.); American conservatives do not want government to even provide public education to the people (they oppose things like health insurance for all, welfare for the poor etc.).
The American conservative sees the Christian religion Americans inherited from the Jews as having served them well in the past and that it should not be thrown out just because scientists (who tend to be environmentalists, liberals) say that there is no God. As Dostoyevsky said in Brothers Karamazov, if there is no God and his heaven and hell, there is no such thing as natural morality and every person can do whatever he wants to do, even kill people (unless he fears being killed by those he sets out to kill).
In contemporary America godless folks do whatever makes them feel good. Why not, they say, there is no God, we are just animals who live and die; we were evolved like other animals and that is all there is to us. The earth in time would dry up, the sun would die, the universe would die and everything would die, so as Horace says let us live today for tomorrow we die.
Hedonism is the current philosophy of Godless America. The Conservative says: wait a minute, we are destroying ourselves by listening to all these seeming rational ideas; regardless of whether God exists or not religion helps to make society a loveable place, the alternative is chaos.
Simply stated, Conservatives want to preserve their religion and morality, even as radical science tells them that there is no God and that morality does not exist in nature.
Conservatives tend to embrace free enterprise economy for they think that it is conducive to civil liberties; liberals tend to embrace mixed economy (capitalism and some government regulations). The division of conservatives and liberals in America is really sham; the American is conservative in spirit; liberals are mini conservatives; they are not bold liberals as in Europe; bold liberals slid into socialism. I call American Liberals half-hearted conservatives and that accounts for their tendency to seem wimpy and gutless; they are always responding to what the more aggressive and warrior like conservative say and do. As Sharon Angle said: they need to “manup”, man!
Socialism began after the industrial revolution. James Watt figured out a way to use steam to run engines and that led to a revolution in how industries are organized in England. We can now bring thousands of people to work in one place and give them power to do their work.
The industrial revolution is generally seen as having begun around 1746. The industrial revolution changed society more than any other event in human affairs, now people were brought together to work at factories, factories owned by individuals (the craftsman is replaced by the factory mass producer with no attachment to his product). Folks left their villages in England and migrated to the industrial urban centers to seek work. They left their yeomanry (and whatever freedom they had) to go become wage slaves. Folks worked sixteen or more hours a day and were paid meager wages and worked in incredibly unhygienic milieu. Even children as young as ten were working alongside their parents in factories and mines. As a result folk’s life span was less than forty.
Men of goodwill observed the new industrial slavery that the age of industry had turned folks. Folks like Fourier and Proudhon in France and Robert Owen in England spoke out against the