By George E. Curry
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush thinks he can become president of the United States if Republicans can double their share of the Black vote in several key states. But he, like his GOP comrades, is demonstrating how not to accomplish that goal.
Bush’s latest failure came last week when he continued a longtime Republican tradition of trying to portray African-Americans as addicted to welfare and government handouts. He was speaking at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
According to the Washington Post, this is what happened:
“Look around this room,” a man told Bush, who spoke to a mostly white crowd. “How many Black faces do you see? How are you going to include them and get them to vote for you?” asked the man, who was white.
“Bush pointed to his record on school choice and said that if Republicans could double their share of the Black vote, they would win the swing states of Ohio and Virginia.”
Then Bush uttered this clunker: “Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting – that says you can achieve earned success.”
To paraphrase GOP icon Ronald Reagan, “There you Republicans go again.”
In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, made an eerily similar remark at a Montana fundraiser. He said, “I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff.”
Ronald Reagan framed the “free stuff” in the form of welfare. He frequently lamented “welfare queens,” which was a way to indirectly exploit racial anxieties. Yet his son, Michael Reagan, had the temerity to argue two years into the Obama administration “…The past two years have made one thing clear: Ronald Reagan was a far better friend to Black Americans than Barack Obama has been.”
In fact, as I wrote earlier in this space, Reagan was one of the nation’s worst presidents on civil rights. Among other things, he moved to invalidate voluntary affirmative action programs and school desegregation plans, vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act and tried to undermine the independence of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by firing three of its members.
Another Republican, Richard M. Nixon, railed against Blacks and Jews in a 1973 taped conversation with his secretary, Rose Mary Woods.
Nixon said, “Bill Rogers has got – to his credit it’s a decent feeling – but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the Black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.
“My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” he said. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have to be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it, Rose.”
In a May 13, 1971 conversation with top aides John D. Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldeman, Nixon said:
“We’re going to [put] more of these little Negro bastards on the welfare rolls at $2,400 a family–let people like [New York Sen.] Pat Moynihan … believe in all that crap. But I don’t believe in it. Work, work–throw ’em off the rolls. That’s the key … I have the greatest affection for [Blacks], but I know they’re not going to make it for 500 years. They aren’t. You know it, too.
“The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. They have a heritage. At the present time they steal, they’re dishonest, but they do have some concept of family life. They don’t live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.”
It’s not just the anti-Black sentiments expressed in words that are troubling about Republicans – it’s their actions as well.
According to the NAACP legislative report card, no Republican in the House or Senate earned a grade above an “F” when voting on issues deemed important to African-Americans. That’s far more damaging than the ignorant words that have been spouted for years. We’ll take positive action over “free stuff” any day of the week.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at www.georgecurry.com/columns.