August 02, 2004

"If the Republicans want to win black votes, why aren't they on BET?"

I get asked regularly about black outreach by conservatives in general and the GOP in particular.

One of the points that I insist on is covered by Jason Riley's piece for Opinion Journal("Dems Score With Blacks as GOP Forfeits the Game") last Friday.

We, as conservatives, allow liberals to dominate black media and by default, to define who and what we are to black America.

In most of the major radio markets, black radio dominates the dial. And among black radio, Tom Joyner rules the roost. His ABC-distributed program is amon the top draws not only in black radio, but in urban and suburban radio period. Joyner, a long-time radio veteran with extensive local market experience in Chicago and Dallas, holds court over a cornucopia of topics that he and his cohorts banter over, and they are frequently visited by phone or in person by newsmakers and commentators that maintain definite sway among black America. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Julian Bond and other newmakers are among Joyner's semi-regular guests; NPR and PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley is a regular weekly contributor.

Joyner hosts regular gatherings at Disney World, at festivals around the nation and on board a cruise ship once a year.

His show holds regular fund-raisers for historically black colleges around the nation, and he is a very outspoken advocate of "giving back" to the community.

His regular mantra now is to get George W. Bush out of office. And while Joyner's program has hosted several of the Democratic candidates for the presidency, his program has not hosted anyone from the GOP. While part of this can be attributed to Joyner and his compatriots on the air, an equally large part of that lack of exposure to a segment of black America that would not otherwise easily be reached lies with the GOP.

The visible communication sources in black America, from Joyner to Smiley on the radio, from BET to TVOne on television, and print sources ranging Johnson Publishing's Jet and Ebony to Earl Graves' Black Enterprise are continual wastelands for a conservative message and presence.

Oh, sure, writings from myself and other Project 21 members are there occasionally, but why don't we see the President there? Wh don't we see Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell there? Why don'te we see John Ashcroft or Donald Rumsfeld there?

All those individuals will readily show up on Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh's bully pulpits, and that's not a bad thing -- it's always good to preach to the choir and the faithful among yor flock regularly.

But you won't expand your presence; expand your message unless and until you begin to step outside your comfort zone.

Going on black radio may not be easy or comfortable at first; a wariness that will exist on both sides. But as the ice is broken, as black America recognizes that this is not a matter or a means of being "used" or "pandered to" solely for the gain of votes, then both sides will begin to open up and to discover a common ground that truly exists, and discover that there not only is room but a necessity for a two-party system to exist within black America.

It will take work, but the long-standing antagonism that exists can be overcome.

(A nod to Redstate for pointing out the Opinion Journal piece)

Posted by mhking at August 2, 2004 01:33 PM

That is a valid point. I wonder if it is because of what happened with Clarence Thomas that these black conservatives might be a bit wary of showing up on these media outlets you listed?

Posted by: Lola at August 2, 2004 03:17 PM

I wonder do Jason Riley watch BET. I have never considered BET a good station and worthwhile to watch, but ABC,CBS and NBC aren't worthwile either. The blacks who really vote (that alleged 10 to 1 who vote in favor of the democrats), do they watch BET? Maybe, I'm not convinced they do. Speaking for myself, I vote and don't watch BET. My hat is off to P-Diddy if he can convince BET fans to vote for anybody. Was the NAACP Image Awards, NAACP Annual Convention, The NUL Convention and the Democratic Convention televised on BET? I think the real story here is that there are two medias one white and one black, the black media content for and support from the black community is problematic itself.

Posted by: michael at August 2, 2004 03:48 PM

However, younger blacks DO watch BET in heavy numbers. Actually, 60% of black Americans watch BET at least once a week.

Given that (1) most black voters are now under age 35; and (2) more younger blacks are moving away from the Democratic Party and are open to certain GOP messages (e.g., school vouchers, Social Security privatization), there's an opportunity for the GOP here. I'll know the GOP is serious about black voters when I hear it on my local radio station or see it on BET.

Posted by: molotov at August 2, 2004 04:26 PM

On Tom Joyner: When J.C. Watts was in office, Watts was on the show a number of times.

On Tavis Smiley: Tavis had Watts, Larry Elder, and Ken Hamblin on his BET show. He regularly has Watts and "the actor who played the husband of one of the Cosby children" on his NPR radio show.

On BET: When BET had the weekly talking head show, they had Armstrong Williams. They were able to get Armstrong Williams after the head of the talk show stated publically, a number of times, that they invited the GOP leaders on the Sunday talk show but they always turned them down.

Bev Smith: When her show was on BET, she regularly had Ken Hamblin on the show. And despite the respect she showed Hamblin, Hamblin was guarenteed to show his ass, then go on his show and cry about the treatment on the show.

Posted by: DarkStar at August 2, 2004 06:12 PM

On TV One: I don't have that network, but when I reviewed their schedule, I saw that Armstrong Williams has a show on the network.

On Black talk radio: In the Baltimore-D.C. area, they have had conservatives, Black and white, and Republicans on their show. But the ones are the ones who seem to be regularly in Black media.

The Larry Young Morning Show? GOP representation at times.

WEAA talk shows? GOP/conservative representation shows up at times.

Armstrong Williams occurs regularly on the Russ Parr Morning Show.

On Black Enterprise: Mostly their articles address finances. Maybe 1 article every 3 months addresses Bush. Earl Grave's editorial piece may address the Bush administration every other month.


Your commentary doesn't add up.

Posted by: DarkStar at August 2, 2004 06:19 PM

The DC/Baltimore radio market is a definite anomaly as far as black conservatives are concerned.

In most cases, black radio hosts tend to sit back and let the callers beat up on the black conservative dujour (as has happened to me on Cliff Kelley's show on WVON Chicago a couple of weeks back, and twice in the past month on Elaine Jacques White's show on WAOR Atlanta).

Yes. We show up on C-Span off and on; we are brought out on Fox News Channel and MSNBC on occasion. We show up on nationally syndicated radio shows fairly regularly (Limbaugh, Hannity, Reagan, Savage, and that doesn't even count Hamblin and Elder's own shows). But what I'm talking about is more than mere tokenism (or "let's trundle out another black conservative to talk about the latest civil rights issue of the day").

Watts' semi-regular appearances along with Walter Williams' guest-hosting for Limbaugh (I really get a charge out of Williams when he has Thomas Sowell on) certainly reach a large audience. But they do not reach the mainstream black audience that the vehicles that I mention in this piece do.

Conservatives need to present a realistic face to black America. They need to show that they are not as antagonistic as they have been portrayed by the black elite who hold court in these venues.

The larger question is whether the Tom Joyners and Bev Smiths will be willing if and when the GOP hierarchy becomes serious (and no, sending Don King on a whistle-stop tour of urban America does not count as serious in my book) to present them with more than a wink and a nod to the audience -- a wink and nod that says "See, we're trying to be fair, we'll let the Uncle Toms in, then trash them once they're gone..."

Not only that, but the GOP needs to spend the dollars advertising within that medium as well. It's an easy matter to preach to the faithful. The more difficult -- and arguably more noble job is to preach to the unconverted and uninformed masses.

Posted by: mhking at August 2, 2004 08:02 PM

I hear what Michael is saying but it may be rather problematic to think that a greater black conservative presence on media outlets will sway hearts and minds. It will not change much of anything. The liberal machine is a behemoth that permeates society and will always freeze out black conservatives. To fight such a behemoth will take massive countervailing power and deep pockets, which black conservatives do not have.

IMHO, black conservatives do not need to do anything more than they are doing now. What will help the cause is not more media appearances. There are already plenty of those. What will get black conservatives a fair hearing are 4 things:

1) THE HARSH SCHOOL OF TEARS. Many blacks are suffering from the results of liberal "assistance" -- from welfare dependency to broken homes to dismal school performance. As these harsh lessons continue more and more blacks will change their tune. Even liberal Cosby was moved to open his mouth recently. You will see more and more of this as the chaos in the black community continues, and the contempt of the larger society increases. What is needed is not mass enlightment, but rather a decent percentage that can split off from the rest of the tribal mass.

2) THE BLACK VOTE WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY IRRELEVANT. Many have put their faith in "the black vote" but with the rise of Hispanic, Asian and homosexual voting blocs, black votes are increasingly irrelevant for a Democrat win. Sure, blacks are good for some touching symbolism, and they may "top off" the vote in some areas, but as time goes on, IMHO, blacks will become increasingly irrelevant- irrelevant to the Democrats except around election and photo-op time, and irrelevant to the GOP, which has already began to seek greater exposure among Hispanics for example.
People are getting increasingly tired of blacks, even liberals. That's why things like AA are being rolled black and even liberals are not fighting hard over it. They know it is time to move on, and that blacks are increasingly a liability in reaching the center.

3) "TOUGH LOVE" POLICIES REGARDLESS OF LIBERAL BLACK PROTESTS WILL CONFIRM THE INFLUENCE OF BLACK CONSERVATIVES. As economic woes mount, and budgets decline, or if the GOP maintains power, they will increasingly implement the "tough love" policies that liberal blacks hate- vouchers, high educational standards, cessation of quotas, tough crime controls, reduced public spending on ineffective programs, etc. Many mock black conservatives lack of influence, but it is black conservatives who are increasingly having the last laugh. The work of Thomas Sowell for example has dealt body blows to the liberal vision. People have taken notice.
Moderate and conservatives politicans increasingly look with disfavor on black failure and dependency. Bush is doing it in education, and even Clinton signed off on welfare reform, dissed some black icons, and moved towards the political center. Black conservatives by all means should not water down their message in the quest for popularity. There are people listening and they will implement some of those "tough love" policies liberals hate. Then who's gonna be laughing?

4) BUILD INFLUENCE WITH BLACK INDIVIDUALS, SMALL SUB-GROUPS AND GRASSROOTS INITIATIVES. IMHO, Republicans should forget about mass appeals. They should shoot for a percentage by doing the things isted above. Focus on getting resources directly into the hands of individuals, sub-groups and grassroots initiatives like tutoring services run by churches or local anti-crime patrols. Over time this will split off a bigger percentage of the black vote and be a better use of the money rather than mass appeals.

Posted by: tw at August 2, 2004 09:02 PM

Great blog!

Posted by: Bec at August 2, 2004 09:40 PM

In most cases, black radio hosts tend to sit back and let the callers beat up on the black conservative dujour

Dude. I'm turning into a talk show junkie. You know that happens with conservative shows as well. They let the callers blast the liberal guests and then really trash them after the conversation is over.

They need to show that they are not as antagonistic as they have been portrayed by the black elite who hold court in these venues.

I am not the Black elite, yet I can make a good case that says the image is one that Black conservatives, for the most part, present. Start with Hamblin who says it's fine to discriminate against Black radio. In other words, don't advertise on Black radio. Elder strongly implies that Blacks complain about racism and then do nothing. Meanwhile, he'll trot out the stats that show Black progress. There's a disconnect there. How can Blacks be progressing while at the same time, not doing anything but complaining. And then there's Jesse Lee Peterson. Come on, that man has ticked off Shawn Hannity with the outrageous comments that he's made.

On BET, Bev Smith gave a fair audience. Tavis Smiley does the same. His exchanges with Larry Elder and David Horrowitz have been interesting.

Not only that, but the GOP needs to spend the dollars advertising within that medium as well.


Posted by: DarkStar at August 2, 2004 10:34 PM


You only do that by going to the Black media and the Black groups.

The rest:


As you expound on it, is silly, IMO.

The GOP talks about the "Hispanic" vote, but looking at the details shows that, outside of Florida, the "Hispanic" vote is strongly Democrat. Unless the GOP is willing to do the right thing, and shut down the free flowing borders, they are spelling trouble for themselves.

Next, the Black vote isn't irrelevent in major urban areas and won't be unless a major demographic shift occurs.

Frankly, you are the enemy of the Black conservatives.

Posted by: DarkStar at August 2, 2004 10:41 PM

Great post. I agree with you that Bush and other conservatives need to make their presence more known in African-American circles. It's kind of like a you-stay-there-I'll-stay-here relationship between Bush and black voters (as well as other minority groups). I would appreciate him reaching out more to minority communities.

Posted by: DeoDuce at August 3, 2004 01:56 AM

Armstrong is too much of a professional polemic to actually persuade the dubious.

J.C. always struck me as someone who, in his heart of hearts, was always just a teeny bit embarrassed to be a Republican (and the way he left after being snubbed by his party...? poor fella).

There's no point in trying to "infiltrate" Black media if you don't have the right weaponry. An effective ambassador would be someone who, while proud of his political allegiance, is also sensitive to well-earned community skepticism.

Someone thoughtful, even-tempered, well-spoken. Right now the only (famous) person I know who could fit the bill is Colin Powell. He gets much more respect now as he's (on a number of occasions) stepped out of line to speak his conscience. He's not a complete how-high soldier. Perhaps after his career is over in the Bush administration, he will do more media outreach.

In the meantime, as your compadre Avery Tooley has said, it's time to get personally involved at the grassroots level, 'cause that's where the action is.

Posted by: memer at August 3, 2004 09:59 AM

Michael, as you and I have discussed many times, there indeed is a common ground for those with differing political views. One of the things that must be discussed is the fact that while African-Americans are, for the most part, conservative, the direction that the Republican Party has taken in the past has scared a lot of people away from it. You have to remember that it was only with the 1932 election that our people started to vote the Democratic ticket. Up until that point, the Republicans were the ones who got Black votes. As late as the mid 1950's, Blacks were still voting for Republicans in decent numbers. It was with the Conservative swing of the party in the 1960's that Blacks really took to the Democrats. That trend continued when LBJ started the "War on Poverty" (well intentioned, but it got out of control). The so-called "black leaders" to whom you refer to, are definitely media creations in the sense that they usually provide a good sound bite and since no other people speak up, the rest of society is made to think that they speak for all of us. These people do not speak for me. I have been able to find that there some concepts that I can agree with from the Democrats as well as the Republicans. I think that there are a lot more of us Moderates out here than either party admits. In the end, most people trust neither of the political parties but, in order to have a seat at the table, they choose what they see as the lesser of two evils. It is an attitude that is not right and African-Americans should abandon this mind set before we become an afterthought to both major parties.

Posted by: Richard King at August 3, 2004 01:03 PM

We don't have time to lay back and wait for the "school of tears" to prove us right further. Being right shouldn't be our focus, being effective should be.. Giving up on folks is morally repugnant, violates the black church ethic.

Black conservatives and moderates must grow a damn backbone and take back our communities, offer up an alternative vision and implement it on the ground in communities.

Call me an optimist. That's why I disagree with the tactics of black conservatism, even though I agree with about 65% of the ideology. Too many black conservatives are glum about black folks' future, even though on most indicators we are making improvements. They thus reinforce the defeatism that they claim to want to eliminate. Where's the positivity? Can-do spirit?

Posted by: molotov at August 3, 2004 06:56 PM

Liberalism ain't the only worry here. Another issue that folks overlook: the rise of Islam in black America. If black conservatives and moderates don't get crackin' on taking back our communities via putting out an alternative vision and start implementing it on the ground - especially to help out poorer blacks who've been left behind - then the Wahhabists will.

Saudi Arabia in particular is pumping money to recruit poor black ex-cons, to fuel resentment and dissatisfaction. Here in Chicago, Muslim rap is on the rise in black communities. This is still nascent, but we must nip it now. This ain't a scenario that I wanna see, and surely one that America doesn't want to see.

Posted by: molotov at August 3, 2004 07:04 PM

Another thing. Why are black conservatives waiting for mainstream black media to accept them? What's stopping folks from creating own media vehicles? Bill Buckley did in back in the 1960s, with the National Review. Given that blacks have a $645.9 billion a year GDP, black conservatives can't pool resources and develop alternative media? Have more blogs, like many of us here do? Or go unfiltered, straight to black communities neighborhood by neighborhood? SOMETHING?

Posted by: molotov at August 3, 2004 07:12 PM

That's why I disagree with the tactics of black conservatism, even though I agree with about 65% of the ideology. Too many black conservatives are glum about black folks' future, even though on most indicators we are making improvements. They thus reinforce the defeatism that they claim to want to eliminate. Where's the positivity? Can-do spirit?

Hello!!!!!!!! That's been my point about Black conservatives whining.

What's stopping folks from creating own media vehicles?

Headway Magazine, started by the Richardsons, tried. But the magazine went belly up.

Posted by: DarkStar at August 3, 2004 09:19 PM
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