Virtue-Signaling Ourselves to Death

In what seemed a strange gesture from the Fox News tough guy, Dan Bongino last week begged black voters on his “hands and knees” to vote Republican for a change. Bongino expressed concern that Republicans “just keep losing,” as typified by their defeat in the Georgia senatorial race a few days earlier. In his view, this problem couldn’t be addressed unless blacks discovered the obvious merits of the GOP.

Considering Republicans supported charter schools for black youth, while Democrats governed cities with high rates of black crime and black poverty, one might think that inner city inhabitants would fall all over themselves to vote for Bongino’s party. Nevertheless, black voters gave the GOP a dismal showing. According to exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool and Edison Research, black support for the Democratic Party was around 86 percent during the midterms. The supposed success of Donald Trump in increasing the GOP share of the black vote, something that Bongino noted enthusiastically, only added four percentage points to the Republican total.

Bongino’s desperate plea contrasted sharply with the congratulatory tone in which Fox News fixtures Steve Hilton, Tammy Bruce, Sean Hannity, and Brian Kilmeade have hailed the stampede of blacks into the Republican Party. The same triumphal note is struck by a regular black commentator on Fox, Leon Terrill, who speaks incessantly about why blacks have already “deserted” the Democrats for the Republicans. This has obviously not happened, despite a vast expenditure of effort by Republican media commentators who often make themselves look ridiculous by begging black voters to join them or acting as if they have already arrived. As bizarre as this routine may be, Republicans seem perfectly content to repeatedly proclaim the mass exodus of black voters from the Democratic Party’s “plantation,” only to be proven wrong time and time again.

Not incidental to this effort have been the constant reminders of how evil the slave-owning Southern side was in the Civil War. We are also told repeatedly about Joe Biden’s inconsistencies as a champion of black civil rights, while other “conservative” commentators rant against those who display a Confederate decal on their racing vehicles. (Gone are the days when the “Dukes of Hazzard” could display such a trademark.) Equally characteristic of this messaging are reminders that Republicans voted for civil rights legislation and remain “the party of the Great Emancipator.”

Presumably, all this sound and fury has something to do with making American blacks aware of how anxiously the GOP seeks their acceptance. To make this point even clearer, GOP media goes into high gear on MLK’s birthday, stressing how profoundly conservative and profoundly Christian this civil rights icon was and (of course) how the Republican Party—unlike its counterpart—carries on his vision night and day.  

While I can fully understand the eagerness of the GOP and its TV mouthpieces to solicit the black vote, given its size and unfailing assistance to the Democrats, by now it should be clear that that constituency won’t move significantly in a Republican direction. Even if Republicans every now and then can raise their share of the black vote somewhere slightly above 10 percent, which they only rarely do, is it worth begging for it as shamelessly as the talking heads often do? There are lots of Hispanics, Asians, and even white women who can be more easily convinced than blacks to vote Republican. From all indications, blacks don’t simply prefer Democrats; they loathe Republicans, which is a primary reason they vote Democratic. Whether this revulsion is justified or not matters less politically than the fact that it persists and, from all appearances, seems irremovable.

In fact, blacks are getting from the Democrats exactly what they want. The Democratic Party keeps its white Christian rival, identified with flyover country, from taking power. Democrats also make hay by treating blacks as victims of white racists and promising them set-asides and, if possible, reparations for slavery and segregation. These may not be the goodies that Bongino or I would prize, but they mean more to black voters than a hated Republican administration they don’t want to see in power. This hatred has nothing to do with which party is more likely to bring down inner-city crime rates or improve the economy generally. It is directed against a party that blacks demonize and hold responsible for their social predicament.

I doubt my points would be entirely incomprehensible to those Republicans who keep reaching out to black voters and, in some cases, pretend they have already captured that electorate. In fact, I may be telling them what they already know. Unfortunately, these panderers can’t stop themselves from making black voters out to be some kind of magical electoral pill. Instead of their futile soliciting of the black vote, Republicans should be politely walking away from those they can’t influence in their favor. They should take their cue from the Democrats, who don’t chase after their hardened adversaries. Why court those whom you can’t win over? Focus on those who can be persuaded. Or would such a sensible course limit the pleasure of virtue signaling?

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