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November 25, 2008

Cognitive dissonance

Voting2 At first, I thought Sophia A. Nelson's article about the tense relationship between the black community and the Republican party was a very good, thoughtful piece. But she lost me with "that [party's] message . . . 'has gotten swallowed up by a social conservative agenda that seems obsessed with religion, guns and abortion.'"

Especially when she then went on to advocate that Republicans reach out to black churches. With a religion-free message? Talk about cognitive dissonance! The Republican party's problem with minority outreach isn't that its social policies are unacceptable to the majority of African Americans. (Remember this statistic?) It's that the Republican party has failed to connect with those voters and help them see just how much the two groups have in common on social issues. It's a matter of communication, not substance.

And yet somehow Ms. Nelson has the odd idea that a party can reach new voters by jettisoning stances, priorities, and ideas that matter to those very voters. She ends her article with "The Republican Party has to find its soul again." But you don't gain a new soul by selling the soul you already have.

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Rachel Coleman

The reason so few blacks want to vote Republican is, I believe, because of the social/familial problems that plague that community at a higher rate than the white or Hispanic communities. There are, simply, more single mothers, more children born out of wedlock, a higher rate of abortions, a total unravelling of the family structure and the accompanying financial/education issues -- and too many people have gotten used to a "government can fix the problems of which I am a victim" mentality. They would rather support a party that routinely reinforces those life choices and attitudes.

My husband is black. When my sister-in-law questioned me, incredulously, about my refusal to vote for Obama, I said I could not vote for someone who promoted abortion. She shrugged and said, "Black women don't have abortions. They have (give birth to) their babies."

I was speechless, which is probably good for the sake of family cordiality.

In our extended, nominally Christian black family, things are Democrat for the most part. And, like many black families, the percentage of my 100-plus neices and nephews born out of wedlock is more than 50 percent, we have more single mothers than married ones, and everyone acts like that is just normal.

Jason Taylor

Maybe this speculation is meddling, but does the fact that blacks by historical circumstance don't have an "old country" to identify with have a lot to do with many of such things?


LIke many things, a single explanation here would not suffice.

It is ironic that Republicans by and large oppose abortion while Democrats, by and large, support it. And Rachel, the data are that one in three Black pregnancies end in abortion. The almost three decades of opposition by the Republican party has to be one of the most self-sacrificing stands ever taken by a political party, given its impact in reducing the number of likely Democratic voters.

I have learned through my studies in psychology that most decision making is emotionally driven. Peer pressure is one of the most powerful forces and it drives not only what we do but what we think. That is why the media tend to think alike, college professors (at least in liberal arts) tend to think alike, and for that matter American Evangelicals tend to think alike. I have no doubt this response, call it herding, bandwagon effect, groupthink, or whatever, is a powerful contributor in addition to factors already mentioned.


Amen, Gina. The Republican party consistently reaches out to conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, when it needs to win elections. But when it's time to govern, those conservatives are sent to Siberia so as not to get in the way of the "real" agenda. In my lifetime Ronald Reagan was the only truly conservative president who governed by those same principles.

The Republican party will never win another election as long as it seeks to neuter the conservatives.



One major reason that African Americans vote Democratic is that the GOP abandoned the urban ground, in a very real, physical sense. Your folks split to the exurbs in droves (we can pretty accurately surmise why) over the last several decades. The Democratic organization filled the vacuum. I can see this in my own county, Jackson, in Missouri. A Republican cannot get elected dogcatcher west of the 435 loop. The only contested races in the Kansas City wards are primaries, among Democratic candidates. If a Republican does run, he registers as a Democrat and usually loses in a landslide. There may be other reasons for the 95% black allegiance to my party, but if all you folks intend to do is drive by inner city churches around election time, be prepared to stay the dwindling, lilly-white party that you have become.

Rachel Coleman

Steve, I know you're right (about 1-in-3 pregnancies). It's my sister-in-law who doesn't understand that black women have abortions at much higher rates than other groups. After our conversation, I went looking for solid numbers, just in case she might know something I didn't.

I conclude people believe what they want to believe -- especially en masse.

Meanwhile, my daughters and I are carrying around "Black Americans for Life" buttons on our purses, in hopes that the pencil drawing of the cute, non-aborted child will spark a pleasant conversation with those we meet.

Andy, I still maintain that black, urban voters like the Democratic party partly because they are duped into thinking it cares and will help them (it doesn't and it doesn't -- especially not about their/our children), and partly because its messages soothe them, helping them feel they don't have to look hard at bad choices they have made. Instead, it offers ready-made excuses, a massive exercise in blame-shifting.

It doesn't help that public school education has left the majority of them functionally illiterate and unable to recognize propaganda for what it is. If they did, I'm not sure the Republican Party as it now functions would offer them real solutions -- but at least they would see the Democrats' deceptiveness and condescension for what it is.

Your commentary is most impressive.
I hope you stick around!

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