As a black conservative, I believe the Republican Party offers the best opportunities for blacks and our nation’s youths to earn a seat at the political table of change.
Our form of democracy—dysfunctional as it is—works best when there is a balance of power, giving new and provocative ideas an opportunity to come to the forefront before they are watered down so much that they don’t have the slightest resemblance to the original purpose behind them.
Blind loyalty to the Democratic Party devalues the black vote. Ironically, for all the blood, sweat, tears and lives lost for the right to vote it is tragic that the African-American vote counts less than that of other groups because it is counted before the votes are cast. When powerbrokers know people have no options they don’t have to appeal to your reason, but only need to use fear tactics to control you.
So, why do blacks continue to vote Democratic despite decades of policies and legislation that have left the community on life support and more government dependent?
For two good reasons: First, I blame myself and other black conservatives who have sat quietly for too long while our party has not acted in accordance with the highest ideals of the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Second, most black voters don’t know the history of the Democratic Party and its resistance to freedom and progress for people of color. When the size of the government grows, the freedom and progress of the citizenry decrease.
I remain committed to the founding principles of individual rights, responsible, free enterprise and small government upon which this country was built.
I have heard many blacks express their disappointment with the Democratic Party. They are disappointed because while the party’s leaders and platform purport to elevate the downtrodden and marginalized in our community, in truth they only make them more dependent on government intervention and handouts.
Real empowerment only happens when people are able to participate in solutions. Not when they are controlled by the changing winds of government politics, but rather by market driven innovations that are self-sustainable.
Black Democrats have no hope of change within their party because there is no competition for their vote. Nonetheless, out of fear of the unknown they keep voting election after election for people who don’t have their best interests at heart. Blacks are fighting for change in a closed clubhouse political machine that few have the stomach or resources to negotiate.
Voting is a sacred thing for black folk of my generation (baby boomers) and older. Voting for our children is connected to the values we baby boomers vest in the right to vote and not necessarily on their belief that real change is coming.
Imagine what would happen if black voters were to suddenly begin to vote for Republican or independent candidates in significant numbers. I believe that the Republican Party offers the black voter a chance to matter. Our votes count the most when we show that we are free and independent thinkers who can vote with our feet.
This revolution would force Republicans to embrace the “real” America and provide us with the margins of victory needed to restore our voice and presence in local communities and statehouses around the country. In addition, it would send a clear message to the leadership of all parties that they have to earn the African-American vote, and keep their promises to our community or else risk being voted out of office.
As Americans, we must demand more from all our leadership: Democrats, Republicans and independents. It takes care and commitment to preserve our freedom.
Black voters are valued most when we can help win elections that could not have been won without us. If our vote is to count, we must stop being taken for granted. The needs in our communities can only be met when our vote earns us the freedom to sit at the table to help negotiate our own solutions.
I believe the Republican Party has the potential to offer the best seat at the table of change. It might take a party revolution to welcome this new America we are all learning to embrace, but the future of the GOP depends upon our ability to recruit blacks and young people into the fold. Ironically, it will require us Republicans to embrace the same diversity and core values that made this nation great and the Grand Ole Party grand in the first place.
Rev. Michel Faulkner serves as President and CEO of the Institute for Leadership in Harlem. A former player for the New York Jets, Faulkner ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Charlie Rangel in 2010 as the Republican Party’s nominee in the 15th congressional district.