12.11.2012 0

The Pros and Cons of Minority Outreach

By David Bozeman — This is a tough one for conservatives and libertarians.  Our message to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc. is the same that we share with any American:  if you work hard and make positive choices (i.e., stay in school. save money, avoid the pitfalls of sexual promiscuity, among others), you, too, can enjoy success beyond your expectations. That may sound condescending, but it’s born of equal doses of logic and compassion.

The response, of course, is that we don’t understand the discrimination and hardships these groups face.  We certainly don’t deny that discrimination exists, and some have suffered the lingering effects endured by their elders.  But we wholeheartedly believe that in 2012, Americans of any background can achieve far more than their leaders allow them to realize.  Even in tough economic times, minorities are surpassing expectations every day.  Republicans celebrated such Americans at their convention last summer:  Marco Rubio, Condoleeza Rice and Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, among others.

Nonetheless, conservatives are just not good at this sort of thing — we see individual potential, not group identity.  But still, changing times demand that we modify our message.  That doesn’t mean to compromise or go wobbly, it simply means that the type of outreach we should employ is not group-to-group but person-to-person.  In fact, few Americans of any background will respond to cold analytical discussions of the Federal Reserve, the debt ceiling or the pertinent messages of Atlas Shrugged Part 2.

But for all our best efforts, we can never guarantee full equality of outcome.  For all our laws banning discrimination, some individuals will have to work harder than others.  That is a fact of human nature and not an indictment of traditional, free-market American principles.

How interesting that if you talk to most people one-on-one, they will heartily agree to such “conservative” tenets as hard work and self-sufficiency.  They instinctively accept that life is not always fair, and they will rely on their own common sense over the blithering idiocy of self-serving politicians.

Indeed, most people, in their day-to-day lives, weigh right versus wrong and not conservative versus liberal or Republican versus Democrat.  It is only when they don the cloaks of class and group identity that our fellow citizens surrender their individual judgments.

A friend, an African American, recently informed me that white conservatives just don’t grasp the historical significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.  I conceded the point.  The president does indeed inspire untold affection from many people of color (and other voting blocs).  He stands with (or maybe just behind) Martin Luther King as a transformative figure.  Conservatives who keep screaming “But he’s a socialist, he doesn’t care anything about you!” may as well be spitting into the wind.

So while conceding my friend’s point, I offered the following: Mitt Romney, John McCain, George. W. Bush and most other boring white guys on the right do not care any less than the president for the average person of color.  They have just as much faith in you as the president does (in fact, some would argue more).

Conservatives do not relish failure in minority communities (we extol success stories because they often prove America’s limitless potential) or enact policies that destroy minority families.  And the dreams inspired by Obama were no less attainable in 2007 than in 2008.

But that, in the end, is not really what matters.  So much verbal energy has been wasted in the emotional terrain, but the pertinent question is not which party believes in you, but do you believe in yourself?  Who do you want your children to look to as a role model in twenty years, Barack Obama or you?   Who defines our national character, the most humble among us or Obama?

Ultimately, we conservatives will not forge a winning majority without acknowledging that it is not what we say that matters but what our fellow citizens hear.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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