A Key to GOP’s Future:

It Must Attract ‘Normal Distribution’ of Black Voters*

W. B. Allen**

            The central purpose of government of the United States is to defend the people of this country.  The means to carry out this function have never been subject to greater confusion and complexity than in the present era.  We therefore need to place an extremely high premium on every endeavor to produce in our politics that order and concord which would allow us to focus our united energies upon this critical task.

            In that light, the normal jockeyings of our political parties, as they seek out that vast ground of public opinion upon which to build a governing majority, take on special significance.  This is especially true of the Republican Party, which stands in such a favorable position to articulate a secure and prosperous future for the state and the nation.

            Thoughtful citizens may wonder, however, whether the party possesses the internal resources to rise to this challenge.  One area which typifies the party’s predicament is the by now ritual rehearsal of its post-election lament, “Why can’t the Republican Party attract the votes of black Americans?”  The question invites a customary response: new initiatives, committees, and policies to appeal to “black interests.”  The results of which, alas, are as predictable as the questions and answers.

            The party and its representatives in office will make courteous bows to established black leaders and the so-called black agenda. They will speak of new initiatives but, in the end, will settle for co-opting liberal ideas on a more modest scale.  They will, in short, fail again to challenge the Democrats’ paternalistic assumption that blacks are, effectively, permanent wards of the state.

            Their response to the proclaimed disaster of November’s numbers will be low-budget liberalism, on which basis one may confidently predict that the next election’s numbers will read much like the current numbers: 90 percent of black voters will prefer high-budget liberalism, while the taxpayers in general will settle for low-budget liberalism, if they must have any.

            This does not have to be Republicans’ fate.  They can win their fair share of the black vote, if they will only remain true to their proclaimed principles and not try to copy the Democrats’ paternalism.  In other words, Republicans should not be seeking the “black vote” at all.  They should be seeking a normal distribution of the black vote.

            For the Republican claim to constitute a conservative majority in the United States is founded on the strength of several fundamental opinions which, all research shows, are distributed throughout the electorate in roughly equivalent proportions—including the black voters.

            It is anomalous that black voters who oppose carte blanche abortions vote overwhelmingly in favor of candidates who disagree with them; that black voters who support tuition tax credits and education vouchers vote overwhelmingly for representatives who oppose these measures; that black voters who regard a strong national defense as  essential vote overwhelmingly for Democrats who discountenance the idea that military defense is possible any longer; that black voters who favor policies to encourage individual initiative and responsibility vote overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats who hold to the paternalist assumption.

            The Republicans can very simply put an end to this anomalous and civically debilitating voting pattern, and construct that natural majority of opinion that ought to govern in this country.  They need only appeal to black Americans as they appeal to all Americans—as if their principles and convictions, and not the color of their skin, were the salient feature of their citizenship.

            It may surprise some that Jesse Helms has set a promising example of this practice.  In his North Carolina Senate race, Helms won in a squeaker largely by inducing movement toward a normal distribution of black votes.  He won 13 percent of the black vote, while Ronald Reagan was held to nine percent.  His accomplishment in winning 13 percent of the black vote was the more incredible than the comparison with Reagan suggests.  Up to three weeks before the election, reliable polls showed him at the statistical equivalent of zero black support—just two percent.  He went into black churches and communities and carried his conservatism with him.

            Helms simply forgot about how black black voters are!  He did not pursue that will-o’-the-wisp, “the black vote.” Nor did he need it.  He needed only to induce movement toward a normal distribution of votes, corresponding with the normal distribution of opinions in black communities.

            The Republican Party, like Jesse Helms, must address itself to the widespread conservative opinion within the black community.  The country needs a more natural distribution of the black vote as much as the Republican Party does.  The country needs above all to aver the dangers of the present anomalous distribution in order to secure itself to confront matters more portentous still: it needs clear-voiced majorities on those questions of war, peace, and morality that now best us all.

* Published in The Sacramento Union (February 17, 1985).

** W. B. Allen is a professor of American Government at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California.  He was co-chairman of the California Scholars for Reagan in 1984 and is a member of the National Council on the Humanities.

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