Bishop E.W. Jackson publicity photo
The Republican Party knows it cannot continue to compete nationally if it remains the party of old white men. In order to not be the party of old white men, it cannot afford to look racist. It’s not so much interested in distancing itself from the racist elements within the party or abandoning racist policies, but it would like to not appear racist. To that end, it has come up with a solution wherein the few black and brown faces that dot the party are deployed to regurgitate the staid policy and rhetoric.
The newest member of this club is the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, Bishop E.W. Jackson. He’s a pastor from the Chesapeake area of Virginia with extreme right-wing views on homosexuality and abortion. In other words, he fits right in with the modern Republican Party. But he’s also joining the ranks of Herman Cain, Allen West and Ben Carson as the next great black hope of the GOP, the singular figure that will provide a counterweight to the Democratic monopoly on the black vote. It’s a long shot, as Jamelle Bouie points out, “African Americans have yet to give support to anyone from this wing from the Republican Party, but this hasn’t stopped white conservatives from embracing them.”
Republicans fail to grasp that the rejection they experience from black voters is not due solely to the lack of black faces but because of their actual record. Despite the attempts by conservatives to cherry-pick Republican Party history to highlight the good times (they’re the party of Lincoln, don’t ya know), they refuse to atone for their misdeeds.
Law and order, welfare queens, the war on drugs, Willie Horton and Hurricane Katrina aren’t ancient history. These are the living memories of the Republican Party’s engagement with black America. Republicans are still pulling from the discarded playbook of Lee Atwater, as if Atwater himself didn’t leave a warning before his death about where that path would lead. They are also still running away from the legacy of the last Republican elected president, one George W. Bush, though a generation of voters were politicized during his presidency and are now living in the wake of the wars and financial crisis over which he presided. Some cosmetic changes are in order, but they will hardly be sufficient.