African-Americans and the GOP:
    The Delegitimization Strategy

If Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and John McCain can’t stand up to Tavis Smiley, than how can they stand up to the terrorists?

The “leading” GOP candidates refusal to speak to African-Americans, as it was with Latinos, seems in one sense to really be a grave miscalculation–not for the GOP generally (which it is with Latinos but not with African-Americans), but with their own chances.

Giuliani’s race-baiting in New York City might make him an exception, but the other three front-runners don’t have a strong profile on race issues, and instead could use the occasion to stand up for conservative principles like opposing affirmative action, long mandatory minimum prison sentences, Social Security privatization, tax cutting etc. The audience won’t like it and might even boo, but that would help the candidates with their primary base, as well as give them free TV coverage that I think would be helpful. (“Fred Thompson isn’t afraid to take on liberal interest groups like African-Americans” or some such.).

So why are they boycotting?

It’s quite possible that what is involved here is really more sinister. The GOP base is so prejudiced that even discussing issues with African-Americans and Latinos is seen as a sell-out. The point is not that you oppose someone’s interests: you have to delegitimize them as a political force. It is essentially an accompaniment to Karl Rove’s disenfranchisement strategy: after all, if a group of people isn’t worth speaking to, then it isn’t worth letting them vote, either.

Rove’s “faith-based” charity initiative was never a policy proposal: it was an attempt to funnel money to certain urban ministers in the hopes of getting enough African-American GOP votes, or at least diminishing turnout, to allow the Republicans to carry some critical swing states. When that failed, disenfranchisement was Plan B. This is just another part of the puzzle.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.