Many of Newt’s critics including the respectable Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) are concerned that Newt’s statements concerning President Obama and food stamps are a part of the “Southern Strategy,” and a play on racial undertones reminiscent of the Black Ghetto Queen. If these connotations were true, it would imply the former Speaker is actually saying that he will bring back jobs to Blacks. Considering the disparately high unemployment rate amongst Blacks, why is this not a good thing? It is a fact that Blacks are disproportionally affected by the 2008 economic collapse more than any other racial group. According to the recent December 2011 job report, Black unemployment is approximately 15.8%, compared to 7% for Whites and 11% for Hispanics. Thus far, Newt seems to be the only Republican candidate that has made it a point to address joblessness within the Black community. Why unemployment is significantly higher for Blacks is a different discussion for another post, but whatever the theory it is a subject that needs much attention.
Instead of applauding Newt’s efforts to address an issue the GOP has largely ignored, some of the most respected Black leaders have unwittingly cried foul. It may be true Newt was not exactly tactful when he discussed food stamps, but to be fair, it is not an issue that has been discussed openly and candidly. So of course Newt will occasionally make a faux pas here and there on this largely ignored topic. To Newt’s advantage there are not many prominent Blacks within the GOP willing to bring Black unemployment to the forefront for a meaningful discussion to ensue or to help Newt tailor his words so that it is not so racially ambiguous. Not even the former Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain made it a part of his “9-9-9 Plan.”
On the other hand, President Obama has not adequately addressed Black unemployment as much as he has been a proponent for liberalizing the sexual conduct of American soldiers. The President has played it down, rather, he has effectively created a don’t ask, don’t tell policy about Black unemployment; yet this too is understandable for the same reasons Newt’s faux pas on food stamps is excusable. Honestly, if Newt were to plainly say that he would bring jobs to the Black community, he will lose support. An overwhelming majority of Newt’s supporters are White and although unemployment among Blacks is significantly higher his White supporters may not be familiar with those concerns, and a small but significant amount of them do not care for minority issues. This is self evident by the candidates the GOP elects, the faces seen at GOP conventions and the policies the GOP pursues. Frankly speaking, GOP candidates generally are not that much different than their supporters.
President Obama faces the same challenge on this issue. He too has a White majority. Although his supporters are much more diverse, he is just as well susceptible to attacks that suggest that he is paying too much attention to Blacks. It would be easy for his opponents to bring on fears about reparations and affirmative action – very damaging accusation at a time the overall unemployment rate is above 8%. It is very likely it would take a White president to adequately address Black concerns, but that too is a different discussion for another post.
What should concern those individuals that believe Newt is blowing a racial dog whistle is how Newt intends on becoming the paycheck president rather than a food stamp president. Rather than focus on the racial undertones associated with his choice of words, focus on how exactly will he address unemployment within the Black community. Focus on how he would work to strengthen the Black family. Give Newt a good faith chance to prove himself. After all, he’s a changed man.