A Tale of Two Days
By Todd A. Smith
It looked like the best of times for Vice President Joe Biden and it looked like the worst of times for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Both politicians recently spoke at the 2012 NAACP convention as all eyes turned towards Houston, but with vastly different responses from the NAACP delegates.
The media focused on the raucous applause Vice President Biden received Thursday and the jeers that Governor Romney received on Wednesday. Biden, a lifetime member of the civil rights organization, even said to NAACP convention attendees, “It’s good to be home.”
However, credit should be given to Romney for showing the guts required to address an audience that he knows is not responsive to most of his ideals.
Life is always easy when you surround yourself with like-minded individuals, but it takes guts to speak one’s mind to people who disagree, even if your ideas are out-of-touch with many Americans.
Romney is not the only Republican nominee to address the NAACP convention during an election year, as President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain addressed the delegates in recent years.
However, it has never been more crucial for the GOP to reach out to minorities as the country becomes more diverse.
Nevertheless, in the future Republicans will have to do more than speak to minorities to earn their vote; they will have to let their actions speak for them in order to gain more support from Black and brown Americans.
The governor received his loudest applause when he spoke about his support of traditional marriage, although the NAACP recently decided to support same sex marriage.
Although that decision is still controversial amongst some NAACP members and many in the Black community, agreeing with conservatives on social issues still does little to improve the lives of the poor and the minority community.
Romney made the mistake of vowing to overturn President Barack Obama’s individual healthcare mandate, while Biden emphasized that “Obamacare” will allow 8 million African Americans to become insured.
He also erroneously stated that he represented the best hope for the African American community.
“If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him,” Romney said to jeers.
As the vice president explained it, the old Republican Party, which worked with Democrats to move the country forward on such as issues as voting rights, does not exist anymore.
“This ain’t your father’s Republican party,” the vice president explained. He said the modern GOP envisions a day when voting is made harder not easier, based on new voter ID laws in states like Texas.
At the 103rd NAACP convention Romney’s Black outreach advisor said: “We understand that folks aren’t going to agree with us 100 percent, but at the end of the day, I think Governor Romney’s message was bold, he’s said things he’s always said about ending Obamacare and about bringing this economy back and drawing distinctions between Governor Romney and the president.”
However, being bold is not enough for Romney. He has to have an agenda that speaks directly to the needs of African Americans in order for the GOP to break the near monopoly Democrats have with Black voters.
Furthermore, it will take more than history and a Black face in the White House to improve the daily lives of African Americans and the president and vice president need to do a better job giving us specifics on how they plan to do that.
To his credit, the vice president did emphasize wanting smaller classrooms and better pay for teachers, which is needed in many public schools across the country. Biden also said the president wants to invest more in HIV research, which is ravishing the Black community.
At the NAACP convention, Romney to his credit also acknowledged that many barriers remain when it comes to racial equality and he hopes to represent all Americans.
However, it will take more than lip service to represent all Americans, and as of late the GOP has done little to represent “the least of these” as Biden said, referencing the Bible.
Until they become serious about representing African Americans, GOP candidates will receive the same negative response from the NAACP convention crowd as they did on Wednesday and that does not bode well for their future survival.
Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.