Monday, April 1, 2013

Jack Kemp and Minority Outreach

Let's get back to the days of Jack Kemp, says Larry Kudlow, and reach out to minorities.
Nobody, in my lifetime, in either party, has reached out with a message of hope, growth and opportunity to minorities better than Jack Kemp. 
While Jack Kemp reached out to middle-class whites with tax rate cuts, he reached out to minorities with goodies like Enterprise Zones in big cities.  You got big tax breaks if you moved a business into an Enterprise Zone.  With that sort of policy, Kemp could reach out to black liberal pols like Charlie Rangel and race-based interest groups like La Raza.

But that misses the point.  Great: Jack Kemp could get blacks and Hispanics to buy into free stuff, Republican style.  But did it do a blind bit of difference to move blacks and Hispanics off the Democratic plantation?  Not at all.  The fact is that the overwhelming majority of black and Hispanic voters respond to free-stuff and racist identity politics.  Maybe Republicans can peel off a few percent of the vote to make a difference in a close election.  Nothing wrong with that.  It just doesn't change the politics of America.

The fact is that blacks and Hispanics think in terms of patronage politics.  They think in terms of attaching themselves to a powerful patron and dining off the scraps from his table.  They experience themselves as weak and helpless in the brutal business of the city, like every newly-arrived immigrant group in the US for the last 150 years.

Typically, after a generation or two of struggle, the immigrant group rises into the middle class and its members begin to experience themselves as competent and responsible selves.  Then they find that the Democratic Party doesn't do it for them; they say, like Ronald Reagan, that they didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left them.

Thus the Religious Right came over to the dark side when the Dems went anti-religion, and now working-class white men after the Dems decided that working-class whites were the ones to pay the price for centuries of racism.

The strategic problem for conservatives is that liberal politics amounts to a cunning plan (whether deliberate or not) to keep "women and minorities" in a permanent dependency status, sucking on the government teat forever.  So it seems that they will never rise to a competency, and come to believe that the government is a wasteful cesspool of corruption.

So what should conservatives do?  Well, one thing would be to wreck the finances of the welfare state. That's the subtext when David Stockman, Reagan's Budget Director, rails at Republican policies in his new book, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, excerpted in the New York Times. He even takes off after Ronaldus Magnus:
The destruction of fiscal rectitude under Ronald Reagan — one reason I resigned as his budget chief in 1985 — was the greatest of his many dramatic acts. It created a template for the Republicans’ utter abandonment of the balanced-budget policies of Calvin Coolidge and allowed George W. Bush to dive into the deep end, bankrupting the nation through two misbegotten and unfinanced wars, a giant expansion of Medicare and a tax-cutting spree for the wealthy that turned K Street lobbyists into the de facto office of national tax policy.
Gosh, you'd almost think the evil Republicans wanted to crash the government's finances!

But maybe it's working.  After all, President Obama, like a deer in the headlights, has kept the entitlement state going full speed ahead towards the icebergs of Greece and Egypt, without a thought of shaving a bit off the government fisc to make room for growth.  Without a course correction, Captain Obama will crash the welfare state, and women and minorities will be hardest hit.

Make no mistake.  A rising middle class of African Americans and Hispanics needs economic growth.  Newcomers to the economy need newcomer opportunities.  They need spaces left by the established classes, leads in the ice, into which they can rush and grow and thrive.  Think of the Jews creating the movie industry.

The problem is that newly arrived immigrants have never believed in the capitalist road to economic competence.  They always believe in the charismatic leader, the FDR, the Hugo Chavez, the Barack Obama.  And very often they keep on believing in face of the evidence.

But there is hope.  Usually, by the middle of a second term the "low-information" voters are ready for a change.  Things just don't seem to be working out for them, and they get restless.  With Obama safely reelected we are now reading that black leaders are starting to get restless about black unemployment in the Obama economy.

And in the end, the folks that believe in a miraculous political solution to their problems give up on politics and go back to work.

Jack Kemp was a great guy, and a great supporting actor in the Reagan era.  But the fact is that he couldn't turn his Kempism into a presidential campaign.  That may tell us something about the politics of minority outreach.

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