‘Civil-Rights Republicanism’ Is Identity Politics By Another Name

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Scott Greer Contributor
Font Size:

If there’s one thing Republican and conservative leaders can agree on, it’s that they desperately want to win over more minority voters.

That’s probably why the latest issue of National Review has emblazoned on its cover: “Yes, Republicans Can Win Black Voters.”

The article that serves as the cover story is an essay by Theodore R. Johnson extolling the merits of “Civil-Rights Republicanism.” If Johnson’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you should remember that he was last in the news a few months ago for his proposal to give all African-Americans five-thirds of a vote as a form of reparations. (RELATED: WaPo Writer: Black Votes Should Count For More Than White Votes)

Now Johnson is getting attention for his advice on how Republicans can win over skeptical black voters. He doesn’t call for the GOP to radically alter its economic or social message. The writer just wants Republicans to embrace what he calls “civil rights protections.”

Sounds easy enough, but what exactly are the protections that Johnson speaks of?

First off, the author says that civil-rights Republicans should forcefully condemn any fellow party member who mentions that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are on government assistance. Johnson is emphatic that that idea is a harmful stereotype. However, a recent study on the matter shows that 55 percent of African-Americans are on some form of government assistance and that nearly 82 percent of black households with children receive welfare.

In essence, Republicans have to be politically correct in order to gain access, according to Johnson.

The next measure the writer believes the GOP should implement is eliminating voter ID laws. Voter ID laws have become popular legislation among Republican-controlled state legislatures as a way of combating electoral fraud. While liberals love to scoff at the notion that there is widespread fraud, the same outlet that published Johnson’s article, published a stunning report last year that found thousands of illegal immigrants are voting — even though they’re not citizens.

But this writer seems entirely unconcerned with the issue of voter fraud. He wants ID laws eliminated simply because many African-American leaders view it as discriminatory.

Johnson believes that another important element of the civil-rights Republican platform is the desire to tackle “disparate impact.” Disparate impact is a legal theory that considers neutral practices and policies — particularly in reference to hiring and housing — discriminatory if they have an unfavorable effect on protected classes. Essentially, disparate impacts give lawyers and bureaucrats the power to cry racism when a police department, a business or some other operation doesn’t have a sufficient level of diversity.

The effects of disparate impact hysteria often results in the elimination of valuable tools for employers to asses the quality of potential hires and hurts workers and businesses alike. Johnson believes Republicans should be all for eradicating the effects of disparate impact. But he doesn’t mention that it would require a vast bureaucracy to root out and would ensure that employers will be harassed on trumped-up charges of discrimination.

Naturally, Johnson also wants the GOP to back criminal justice reform wholeheartedly and implies that America’s courts are racially-biased. While it is true that the African-American community is very much in favor of this kind of reform, there’s so far no evidence that it will benefit Republicans electorally. More importantly, the social benefits of it are unclear and may very well be negative for the country as a whole. (RELATED: Criminal Justice Reform Is Bipartisanship At Its Worst)

The last two measures the National Review contributor calls for are Republicans doubling-down on their opposition to over-regulation and do more to engage with black voters. These last two ideas are actually pretty sensible.

However, the majority of Johnson’s proposed platform represents a total inversion of conservatism and would likely not result in any significant electoral gains. Not only that, but some of these ideas would have harmful effects on American society.

The demand that Republicans practice full-blown censorship against anyone who factually points out that a troubling number of African-Americans depend on welfare is a mandate for enforcing political correctness. Considering that the two leading Republican presidential candidates — one of whom is an African-American — are soaring in the polls in largely due to their disregard for political correctness, it seems antithetical to the party to embrace such an idea.

It also means Republicans would be unwilling to tackle important issues just because it might hurt some people’s feelings. Many Americans are fed up with this attitude and would prefer if politicians had the courage to take on tough subjects rather than skirting them entirely.

It may be true taking voter ID off the table would reduce some of the skepticism blacks have for the GOP. But there’s growing evidence that more and more illegals are getting to vote, and in order to prevent that fraud from happening, stricter regulations may need to be applied. Unless we want to ignore the problem out of of political correctness.

The worst element, however, is supporting the notion of disparate impact. Disparate impact impairs the quality of essential services, like fire departments, and hurts businesses that have done no wrong. There is nothing conservative in it and it is essentially affirmative action to correct imaginary discrimination.

But even if the GOP embraced this entire platform, there is no substantial evidence to show that Republicans will benefit electorally. Democrats are already leading on these issues and these notions complement a liberal ideology. Additionally, like the majority of voters, African-Americans cast their ballots based on economic concerns.

For whatever reason, they believe Democrats serve them better in this area.

What Johnson proposes is identity politics without the rewards at the ballot box. It would require Republicans to alienate their own voters on behalf of a group that would have little interest in supporting the elephants. It would result in conservatives wanting special privileges for a select few Americans. It would also entail the implementation of bad policy based solely on unsubstantiated electoral predictions.

In short, it makes no damn sense.

Instead of trying to be so-called civil-rights Republicans, the GOP should promote policies and achieve results that benefit all Americans rather than trying to play a watered-down version of interest group politics.

That’s certainly a better idea than listening to the guy who wants every member of a particular group to have five-thirds of a vote.

Follow Scott on Twitter