In advance of the most recent debate among candidates for the republican presidential nomination, a number of conservative Latino activists held a press event. They didn't gather to make an endorsement. They didn't come together to slam democrats. They didn't gather to encourage other Latinos to consider the embrace of conservative policies and principles.What they came together to do was to fire off a warning shot to their fellow republicans. A warning shot related to issues of importance to Latino-Americans broadly, regardless of political ideology. Those issues involve republican proposals and rhetoric around immigration and the demonstrations of anti-Latino bigotry exhibited by several republican office seekers and office holders, specifically Donald Trump. In short, they made it clear that there would be no general election support coming from them if Trump were to become the nominee. Further, they eviscerated their party for its tolerance of bigoted, anti-Latino rhetoric among GOP candidates and political operatives. The participants in the announcement, who included businesspeople and persons who served in republican presidential administrations, told republicans not to count on their support if the demonstrations of bigotry continue. Rosario Marín, who served as U.S. treasurer under President George W. Bush, said:
"Heed our warning: don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election,” said. “If you are not with us now, we won’t be with you then. If you insult us now, we will be deaf to you then. If you take us for granted now, we will not recognize you then....Foolishly, some candidates think they don’t need the Hispanic vote in the primary, so they pander to the voters with extreme views instead of just showing us who they are...”
Alfonso Aguilar, head of the American Principal Project's Latino Partnership, said:
"We want candidates to know: We're monitoring your language. We're monitoring what you propose. And we're going to hold you accountable"
This strikes me as pretty unprecedented. Individual members of a constituency group forcefully saying that the impact of a party's policies and rhetoric on those who they represent must change if they are going to continue supporting that party and damn benefits they may receive as individuals. I count that as impressive and I tip my proverbial cap to them. I also ask myself the question: Where is the voice of the black conservative with respect to the impact of republican policies and rhetoric on black people?
Where is the black conservative on the tidal wave of guns crashing into urban neighborhoods in part because of their party's fealty to the gun lobby and indifference to the plight of those struggling to survive? Where is the black conservative on the disinvestment that has occurred in cities all across the country? Where is the black conservative when state after republican-controlled state embraces the New Jim Crow tactics of voter suppression in black communities? Where is the black conservative when republicans refer to the first black President of the United States as a "pimp", his First Lady as a "whore" and his family as "ghetto street trash"? Where are black conservatives when their compatriots spout off with race-baiting, racially charged and flat out racist rhetoric to fire up the "base" of resentful, small-minded and bigoted people in their coalition?
Where is the black conservative? With a couple of noted exceptions, he is either sitting by allowing his silence to serve as endorsement or he is explicitly endorsing and providing cover for the racism by joining in. While Hispanic conservatives seek to hold their fellow republicans accountable for bigoted rhetoric and damaging policies, black conservatives continue to go along to get along, falling into a shameful silence in the face of pandering to the racist extremists in their political coalition. Worse yet, some curry favor by aping even the most inflammatory of bigoted republican rhetoric. Wing-nut bloviator Michael Massie intoned:
“Blacks are worse off today, morally and spiritually, than at any other time in their history in America. Over the past 50 years, as other Americans have progressed, blacks as an aggregate have regressed in a horrific way."
Dr. Ben Carson, erstwhile candidate for the republican presidential nomination, has endeared himself to his fellow conservatives with nonsensical rhetoric such as:
"You know Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery … because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about healthcare,"
I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race....[President Obama] and a bunch of progressives manipulate, particularly minority communities, to make them feel that they are victims. And of course if you think you’re a victim, you are a victim.”
Allen West, one-term congressman and general nut-roll:
The Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today,”
“So I’m here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman, to kind of lead people on the Underground Railroad, away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”
To be sure, a number of black conservatives have called out their party on issues of race. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken of the party's "vein of intolerance". Former republican national committee chair Michael Steele acknowledged republicans' historical embrace of the Southern Strategy and its impact on black voter attitudes. But these admonitions have been few and far between and NEVER has a group of black conservatives so visibly taken their party to task for its policies and rhetoric in a manner even remotely similar to what those Hispanic republican party members did this week. Is it any wonder that most black conservatives are considered "sell outs" by most black people? They protect their positions with their silence. They make their money by joining in on the vituperative condemnation of black people on a ubiquitous level. They keep in favor by deflecting from those policies and actions that damage black communities. They offer nothing in terms of solutions or support. The contrast between them and their Hispanic fellow conservatives couldn't be more stark and many black conservatives should be hanging their heads in shame.
I predict that those Latino conservatives will catalyze change within their party, eventually if not immediately. Though some Latinos continue to express skepticism:
“Putting your field on notice is great, but if conservatives really want to be taken seriously by the Latino community they have to go beyond doing the bare minimum to condemn inflammatory rhetoric and start holding candidates accountable even when it’s not politically expedient,”
- Cristobal Alex, Latino Victory Project
A number of Hispanic conservatives are at the very least recognizing the severity of the problem and holding their fellow republicans accountable regardless of whatever blowback they might suffer as a result. That is far, far more than that which can be said for the gop's cadre of black conservatives.