I was introduced today to Ragged Thots, something I've been missing for a while, an old head Republican apparently from the 'hood. In the wake of Katrina, there's something of a bit of resignation in the air between Republicans and Bush that I really haven't been paying attention to, but I find myself agreeing with P6 on the matter of hardness. He has no such bonds.
Although I haven't looked at my writing in a while to see if it accurately reflects it, I am done being a black republican. I'm a republican, period. In other words I've used, it's all about 'do' and not about 'be'. So I'll take this moment to start into tearing identity politics a new one, because I'm afraid that this is an ugly part of black conservatism.
The same impulse that takes the personna of George W. Bush more seriously than the party of his origin is that same sentiment that says who is nearly as important as what, or how. If we are to lead our nation's policy through polling, then Bush's popularity matters, but I think it doesn't, at least until Congress is willing to undertake some kind of vote of no confidence.
Bush has spent exhorbitantly. This is not in question. But he is not as cocky as Reagan was with the economic voodoo. If Greenspan is to be believed, we're not yet in trouble, nor is it certain that trouble is just around the corner. That doesn't change the fact that 'fiscal conservative' is not simply a label. Republicans are going to be concerned about government spending no matter who is in office, and that's the important lesson here. Principle and ideological fidelity count for something more than just litmus tests. And for these reasons, blackfolks, whitefolks whomeverfolks shouldn't so heavily weight their attraction to the party based upon the personalities involved. In the case of Katrina and 9-11, a bunch of money had to be laid out. And while I think it's clear that the debacle that is unfolding over the incompetence of W's massive reorg of our security agencies, I hardly think it's a reason to bolt the party. Then again, I discounted Bush's organizational ability a long, long time ago.
From the very first day I decided to join the Party, I understood that it would be a long hard slog to getting black popularity. My premise is and always has been that class similarities between traditional Republicans and upscale blacks would make for a natural fit, but that it would be foolish to expect that more than 25% of African Americans would go for it. I did so with the express understanding that a lot of hard-working politicos have tried and failed to get that bread-breaking thing going on. So I have always anticipated that being a interracial broker for the black masses and the GOP would be a dead-end job. Quite frankly, I think it's a dead-end job no matter where you're trying to broker relations with 'the black community'. That's because you're ultimately playing with stereotypes. It's hard enough for me to keep things rolling with Progressives I understand and respect, much less try to get the black hoi polloi to come the a Republican Jesus.
In 1992 I had a baseball cap stitched with my email address on it. Wearing it backwards in Brooklyn elicted very little curiosity. In fact, I think the only person whom I didn't know who noticed it was a research prof I walked past on in first class on a plane flight. While black college professors were ginning up their vocabulary to rail against another phantom institutional racism soon to be known as the 'Digital Divide' I had to basically take a stand. "The Internet", I said, "is for me and people like me. The rest of y'all can take the bus." But I did so after a not-insignificant amount of effort to communicate the benefits. I reasoned that being way ahead of the curve would put me in the ranks of 'first blacks', and so it did. But being first didn't really help in the end. I am inclined to believe that 'first black' is a trap, as is racial brokerage. There's always a bigger fish, and second and third generations not on the bleeding edge have fewer headaches. Of course I knew more about the Internet than Richard Parsons, but Parsons got to be the boss of AOL, making a lot more splash than any of the pioneers at The Drum, Netnoir or NYOnline. In the end, you simply have to be comfortable being alone. It's nobody's responsibility to nudge the race along. You and your 1000 black friends are still a molehill in this great big crazy world. Again, it boils down to principles and ideological fidelity.
Chances are, that whatever it is that gives you the cojones to lead, is the same conceit that will make it difficult to get people to see things your way. Unless you are just in a popularity contest, the only people who are going to get it are those people who have been trying to get it. And so it goes with black Republicans, who will all inevitably be compared (by those who don't get it) variously to everyone from Clarence Pendleton & Alan Keyes to Thomas Sowell & Condi Rice. Cults of black personality. Is that what Republicanism is all about?
There is something greater at stake here, and I don't know exactly how to communicate that yet. But somehow racial identity must be subsumed for a higher and more substantial purpose which is core to Western values.
In the meantime, with the understanding that we must make sense of individualism, at the heart of our culture we're going to have to go it alone. Or to quote P6:
"This shit is hard, and you have to be willing to deal in the kind of truth that pisses off both friends and enemies. Not like you should try to piss them off...if you constantly search for the angry truth, you got issues. But if you be avoiding things, it's not your friend you're hiding from."