Found a great article today in the Wall Street Journal by Shelby Steele regarding why conservatism has such difficulty gaining traction among the various minority groups in our country. Instead of rehashing his argument, I highly recommend that you read it here.
I freely admit that this is a question that I have struggled with. Traditionally, most minority groups in this country, especially African-Americans, have tended to side with Democrats. On the one hand, it is easily understood, with the link between John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights movement. On the other, the argument can by made that the Democratic Party of JFK is not the Democratic Party we have today.
However, I think the issue goes much further than that, and Steele touches on it. It is not so much of a problem of substance, but one of image. To put it bluntly, conservatism suffers from a marketing problem. We tend to not be a bunch that engage in very much sign holding, protesting, or other actions that bring attention to our cause (although this may be changing…it is too early to tell). Let’s face it – a three day policy conference about how to deal effectively with some societal ill is not nearly as exciting as carrying signs and chanting slogans about that same ill.
The issue – the conundrum – is that conservatism, at its root, seeks to instill the very things that many minorities in our country are looking for (at least I think they are). Individual liberty, equality of opportunity, and the ability to provide as good a life for you and your family as you are willing to work for are all things that would seem to resonate loudly with minorities. Instead we have been tarred by the Left as xenophobic, greedy, racists, and mean to puppies and kittens. I am sure there are some that label themselves as conservatives that are…but I would put forth the argument that they either misunderstand conservatism at its root or use it as some sort of anti-liberal tag.
Unfortunately, I have few ideas of how to fix this. I do know it starts with passionate, articulate champions of conservative ideals…from all walks of life. The next is to give them as much opportunity to talk to the people of America about what conservatism is (and is not) as we can. We also need conservative politicians who put values over politics, ones that will say what they think, and vote what they say. But that is the topic for another post.