Monday, September 1, 2008

This Is Why Black Folks Don't Vote for Republicans,0,3487488.story
No Room At The Table For Black Republicans

August 31, 2008

With stiff upper lips and phony grins, black Republicans are going to the Republican National Convention in Minnesota to be dissed by the party. Many will make believe they are down for Sen. John McCain — too afraid to come out the closet for Obama.

Since the 2000 and 2004 Republican conventions, a lot has changed for African American Republicans. I was a vice chairwoman for Bush in Connecticut, a national co-chairwoman for African Americans for Bush, a surrogate spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee and worked on Latino outreach efforts nationwide. With a number of blacks, I served on various committees to plan events at the Philadelphia and Big Apple conventions. There were rainbow coalitions of interns and delegates. Featured speakers such as Colin Powell, J.C. Watts Jr., Condolezza Rice, black actors and ministers and gospel singers played a role on prime-time television.

Black Republicans had a voice, working in key positions participating in everything from building the Republican Party platform to prayer breakfasts, hosting events and most important, being heard on issues vital to us. George W. Bush was a "new kind of Republican." He desired to show we were a part of the party of Lincoln. But oh, how times have changed.

I've gone from having VIP seats sitting in the Bush family box to having a premier seat on my living room couch in Windsor from which to watch the Republican convention. I will miss the hurrahs, shout-outs, fist pumps and holding up the signs. I will miss talking to the president, his family and so many people who were interested in what was important to African Americans. Real or perceived, there was an effort to engage us.

The 2008 convention has only one African American speaking — a man I personally know and admire, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. He is also the chief black for McCain. However, will he be seen by all on prime-time television?

Black Republican pundits at the convention have tremendous pressure to make negative remarks about Obama — there are well-scripted key message points to keep them in line. One group called the National Black Republican Association purchased 50 billboard ads in Denver to taunt that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican and that Obama is no MLK. In a three-minute video, MLK's niece Alveda King, a Republican, supports this claim. I'm not sure what time she is living in, but in the video she refers to us as Negroes.

To use the King legacy to divide and conquer is a useless tactic to prove one is not "monolithic." It's typical "crabs in a barrel" against Obama. It may be believed that acceptance brownie points will be garnered from white Republicans.

Black Republicans faking to feel included should ask why African American Republican Dr. Deborah Honeycutt, a highly educated, beautiful and successful physician running for the U.S. House in Georgia's 13th Congressional District, can't get support from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee or the Georgia State Republican Party. Since 2007, according to the Federal Elections Commission, she has raised over $5 millionto try to defeat her white Democratic opponent, incumbent Rep. David Albert Scott. To date, he raised nearly $700,000.

I asked Honeycutt's campaign manager, Michael Murphy,if John McCain has reached out to her or whether anyone of significance from Washington or Georgia is offering help.

He hesitated and gave an embarrassing "No." I then asked him why and he said, "Well ... I don't know. Perhaps when she goes to the convention they will change their minds once they see her."

While I strongly support Barack Obama, there are still so many values in the Republican Party I hold dear. John McCain's website now has a listing for African Americans along with a number of other minority groups, but the truth is that the outreach is only implied.

The 2008 Republican convention and the presidential election should be a wake-up call for black Republicans. In the end, if we choose to support Obama, we should not do it in the dark.

If we choose to support McCain, then we must get the courage to challenge a party that we have allowed to act as if we don't exist.

Yvonne R. Davis of Windsor is a former appointee of President George W. Bush.

Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant

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