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Black Religious Conservatives Still Not Considering GOP

An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Churches Of Cain And Obama” attempts to explain the philosophical differences between these two men by examining the teachings of their respective churches. The bad thing about these kinds of articles is how literally the typical Wall Street Journal reader is likely to take the assertions the writer makes. Why do I know this? Because in a day or two one of my buddies who thinks the stories in the Wall Street Journal have received some kind of extra special vetting for its discriminating subscribers will call me and repeat the phrases written by Bishop Harry Jackson as if they are the gospel truth.

“According to Antioch’s website, its early leaders “stressed the dignity of work and honest labor.” By contrast, Trinity’s website emphasizes God’s displeasure with “America’s economic mal-distribution.” It’s not surprising, then, that President Obama would see a government-run jobs program as the key to ending the current economic recession whereas Mr. Cain would look to private industry.

An Obama vs. Cain contest couldn’t be cast as a referendum on a black man’s qualification to hold the highest office in the land. Instead it would be a choice between two black men who see everything—from the role of government in a free society, to the very definitions of life and family—almost completely differently.”

Bishop Harry Jackson, The Wall Street Journal    

The last sentence above flows so well grammatically that it is almost a shame to have to say that in this instance, the method by which the Bishop tried to build his argument is incorrect. My evidence is anecdotal, nothing more than the personal relationships I have with more than a few Antioch Baptist Church members that have been my neighbors, co-workers, college friends, or are people to whom I am related, but since the political sentiments of this cohort pretty much mirror the 96% of black voters who cast a ballot for Barack Obama in 2008, and the 90% of black voters who are affiliated with the Democratic Party, I am really at a loss to understand how an editor at the Wall Street Journal could allow Bishop Jackson to ascribe so much of Cain’s outlook on life to the teachings of his faith.

In fact, as I read the article, I thought of something Barack Obama himself pointed out years ago about the contradiction between the African American community’s religious outlook and its predominant political philosophy on Chicago Public Radio back in 2001.

HOST: “Let’s talk with Joe (I guess this must be “Joe the Liberal”) – good morning, Joe, you’re on Chicago Public Radio.” CALLER: “Good morning. What I’d like to know is, considering that the civil rights movement was fought very much on moral grounds as much as legal grounds, and therefore religious grounds – I mean, Martin Luther King was a reverend, after all – what impact is that having now on the Supreme Court, and perhaps, with Ashcroft being nominated, in the future.”

OBAMA: “Well, you know, I think it’s an interesting question, you may be pointing out, sir, what has been a longstanding contradiction, not just in the Warren Court or liberal lawyers, but, sir, the liberal community generally, and that is the contradiction between on the one hand basing many of its claims for justice on moral and ethical grounds, and at the same time being suspicious of church encroachment into the political sphere.

That’s been less of a contradiction traditionally in the African American community, and for whatever reason psychologically, the country has always been more comfortable with the African American community’s marriage of spiritual and, and political institutions.

But I think that is a genuine contradiction that exists, you know, I think in the ideological makeup of the left in this country that hasn’t been entirely resolved.”

Obama Controversy # 137  transcribed from Chicago Public Radio archives

This contradiction between the African American’s conservative religious beliefs and liberal political affiliation is basically what happens when you have to choose between the lesser of two evils.

In order to make the choice between Obama and Cain (obviously Bishop Jackson’s piece was commissioned before this week’s sexual harassment brouhaha in the Cain campaign) solely a choice between the political philosophies of these two men for African Americans, as the Bishop suggests, the GOP would first have to renovate itself. The Republican Party head honchos would have to banish all of its Limbaughs and Hannitys and Coulters and the rest of the celebrity conservatives whose obnoxiously repugnant antics and assertions  actively promote a climate of racial animosity within the GOP’s ranks, a climate that is an instant turnoff to most African American sensibilities. The Republican Party would have to discontinue its voter suppression efforts, since that would be working against the GOP’s self interest to disenfranchise the very voters they are trying to court to join their ranks.  And it would also have to quit trying to rewrite the history of African Americans in this country, and be willing to fully acknowledge heinousness of America’s history towards African Americans.

Most of the people I know who attend Herman Cain’s church would tell me that my list of things the GOP needs to do to attract more blacks is way, way too short. Some of them, I would imagine, are still ticked off about Cain’s “blacks are brainwashed” comment. Until the GOP adopts the kind of structural changes that do a better job of promoting inclusion and exiling those among its ranks, including those celebrity conservatives who can’t seem to get with the program, the pure policy versus policy debate they want to see among African Americans will remain totally out of reach.


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