Romney and the NAACP: A Missed Opportunity
By Raynard Jackson
As anyone who has followed me knows, I have been extremely critical of President Obama’s non-engagement with the Black community. Obama has deliberately ignored the plight of the Black community while giving preferential treatment to the homosexual and Hispanic communities.
But I can’t in good conscious criticize Obama and then give the Republicans a pass when they display similar behavior towards the Black community. I can’t excoriate Black Democrats for following Obama blindly and then remain silent when Black Republicans do the same towards Romney.
Yesterday, as I watched Mitt Romney address the NAACP, I tried to force myself to be optimistic about what he would say. But my years of being an avid Republican prepared me for the worst. And that’s exactly what I saw.
Romney had a golden opportunity to make a credible argument for Blacks to support him. But because he doesn’t have experienced Blacks in his inner circle, he thoroughly embarrassed him-self and deserved to be roundly booed. For Romney to speak before a Black audience and not talk about the Black entrepreneur is like going to church and not mentioning God.
This is what happens when you don’t have the right people around you, people who understand communications, messaging and the nuances of the audience being addressed. That’s the elephant in the room.
Contrary to what the White media thinks, the preachers and politicians are not the leaders in the Black com-munity – businessmen and business-women are. That Black business person is typically head of the board of trustees or the deacon board of the church. So, if you get the business leader on your side, he or she will bring along the minister and the congregation.
Business leaders have a vested interest in having an educated Black community because they have to hire people in order to grow their business. Like everyone else, those leaders care about crime and don’t want employees to be victims as they travel to and from work. More than anyone else, business leaders understand the cost of capital issues and therefore are more likely to support a reduction or total abolition of the capital gains tax. He or she is more likely to support school choice and vouchers, all topics the NAACP members can relate to.
So, the point is, the Black business leaders are the most important entry point to the Black community and Republicans, of all people, are totally ignorant of this fact. And they will remain ignorant of what’s important to the Black community until they have campaign staffs that look like America.
Like Jeremiah in the Bible, I have been labeled as one crying in the wilderness. And I am not about to surrender that label now. Am I the only one who is offended that Romney has fewer than five Blacks on his national campaign staff and none in top decision-making positions? I am talking about someone who controls a budget, has the final say on hiring, and has the ability to put an event on the candidate’s calendar or arrange a private meeting with the candidate.
Am I the only one who noticed the optics of Romney not having photos of any Black Republicans on his campaign Web site? Am I the only one who is puzzled as to why Romney has never met with a group of Black entrepreneurs?
I was stunned to learn that Romney had chosen a recent Democrat-turned-Republican, Ashley Bell, to be one of his surrogates and to help him craft his speech to the NAACP. Bell is a decent guy, but am I to believe that Romney couldn’t find any veteran Black Republicans who have both party credentials and relevant presidential campaign experience to help him craft the speech that would define his relationship with Black America?
Does his staff know people such as Shannon Reeves, Allegra McCullough, David Byrd, Aaron Manaigo, Francis Johnson, Ada Fisher or James House? If they don’t, I will be happy to put Romney’s staff in touch with them and many other able Blacks. For Romney to pick a Republican-come-lately over Party vets who have taken all kind of criticism for supporting the Grand Old Party is a grand old insult to those Black Republicans who have toiled for years in the vineyard of Republican politics.
Where are the voices of Black Republicans who know better? Their silence is deafening. In this respect, they are just as bad as the Black Democrats I have been criticizing.
With Romney’s speech to the NAACP and making Bell one of his surrogates, the candidate has spent more time with Black Democrats than he has with Black Republicans. Where is the outrage from Black Republicans? Oh, they can criticize Obama for his treatment of Blacks, but when Romney does the same thing they get laryngitis. As I often say, the best way to get attention from the Republican Party as a Black Republican is to be a Black Democrat.