Those Darn Tea Party Racists

A police state took hold the past few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri, evidence that the post-racial America many on the left and right were hoping for under President Barack Obama has instead proven just the opposite.

Left-wing pontificators have been vocal in their calls for “justice” and, seeing that the brand of justice leaders like Al Sharpton and his ilk are demanding has not been delivered, mobs have descended on the city to protest, loot, and destroy. In response Americans are witnessing the ugly visage of police clad in military-like gear driving armored vehicles, exerting more muscle on the people of this midwestern town of 21,000 than any siege to conquer an Iraqi city from ISIS terrorists.

The murder of an unarmed man – he was shot six times by police – is another waypoint in a concerning trend of the incipient “us versus them” mentality that is supplanting the old “serve and protect” mission of police in towns across America. The images of MRAPs rolling through suburbs and snipers atop shopping centers are even more unsettling, to say the least.

This could be a watershed moment for America. The resentment being expressed in Ferguson and that was expressed after the death of Trayvon Martin, among other skirmishes, is real and can’t be discounted – even if you’re scouring the interwebs for reports that the dead man confronted police rather than ran away.

I am loathe to divide Americans into subgroups, but for the purposes of this post I have little choice but to acknowledge the reality that The Left has created: America is divided. It’s divided into the Black community, the Hispanic community, the woman community, the college-educated-unmarried-protestant-Norwegian-American-under-30-male community (I guess that’d be me), and so on. Most conservatives whose thought lineage descends from the melting pot view of America’s muddled culture share my apprehension at defining people based on these superficial divisions.

The melting pot viewpoint stands in stark contrast to The Left’s incipient view of America, called “Multiculturalism” in which subsequent generations of Americans retain the cultural identity of wherever their ancestors came from and are defined based on what divides them from other ethnic groups. Our unity, our self-definition based on what brings us together rather than what makes us different, has always been our strength. That’s opposed to, say, the Middle East which is perpetually divided along ethnic fault lines and perpetually in conflict because of their fractured allegiances.

Division versus unity is at the heart of the approaches of the right and left to the tumultuous American culture; liberals increasingly define those differences and spend most of their time demagoguing on the basis of the fault lines they create; Barack Obama’s re-election strategy, which has become the Democrat Party’s modus operandi, is a case study. Meanwhile, conservatives like Rand Paul are elevating the discussion, trying to engage the Black community in an honest conversation about race and the problems facing them at a time when those on the left simply pander and incite negative emotions.

Sen. Paul is taking a leading role in speaking frankly with the Black community, addressing the problems of incarceration of Black youths and conveying an understanding that it’s understandable that they feel targeted by police and discredited by society simply because of their birthright. He recently wrote, boldly, in Time Magazine: “If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.” Sen. Paul is doing his part to change the dialogue about race. Conservative commentator Mark Steyn, among many others on the right, makes a compelling takedown of that “us versus them” mentality tightening its grip on American policing.

Other “Tea Party racists” as The Left would have well-meaning people believe are having equally candid conversations about the situation and go a step further, proposing legislation that carries the hope of breaking the decades-long holding pattern the Black community has been stuck in under the weight of decadent liberal leadership.

Sen. Paul and others are backing legislation that would reduce or eliminate prison time for people busted for small-time, nonviolent drug infractions and roll back mandatory minimum sentences that grandstanding “tough on crime” pols shortsightedly impose. Such measures target the busts that clog the jails and justice system with little real benefit to society other than stopping someone from cheeching up their own living room. In cases like these a disproportionately high number of young Black men do time behind bars, hard time that essentially ruins the life of someone who didn’t harm anyone but possibly themselves.

This isn’t a matter of waiving laws just because of the skin color of the people who are most impacted, it’s about having good policies. And to paraphrase an old conservative axiom, the government crosses the line from one that ensures equal opportunity for all to one that micromanages our lives when it goes from protecting us from others to protecting us from ourselves. In nonviolent cases, the war on drugs (admittedly a Nixon-era push furthered by Reagan) is a case-in-point, a failure of otherwise respectable law-and-order community-minded policies.

Congressman Paul Ryan has put forward a sensible, workable, rational antidote to the failed anti-poverty initiatives of The Left from decades ago, which today sit like rusted-out cars in a weed-strewn old parking old. Poverty is another problem which, because of the abysmal failure of The Left’s war on poverty, disproportionately hurts Black Americans. The fruition of the liberal dream is a government powerful enough to divvy out opportunity for the wealthy and well-connected, leaving the rest of us with Detroit.

Big government is bad. It’s even worse when augmented with the corruption born when sprawling regulatory agencies get in bed with massive corporations and cowardly politicians. That state of affairs harms everyone, especially those with a history of economic depression and disenfranchisement, like many Black Americans.

It would be wise for the Republican Party as a matter of national policy to embrace the Opportunity meme and divorce itself from crony capitalist practices. The GOP should be the pro-free market party, not necessarily the pro-business party. As Wisconsin Secretary of State candidate Julian Bradley, a Black Republican on the fast track in Wisconsin politics, puts it whenever he’s in front of a group of people – we should be the Great Opportunity Party in addition to being proud of our history as the Grand Old Party that boasts pioneering leaders like Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan.

The Left as it’s defined today has dominated the conversation about race relations since Martin Luther King, Jr., who many believe was a Republican. It would make sense. At that time, the GOP was progressive on civil rights. It was under a Republican president and a Republican chief justice – Eisenhower and Warren – that the giant leaps for racial equality occurred in the 1950s.

But despite the Democrat script that everyone switched sides when Kennedy was elected, the GOP has continued as the party of equal opportunity for all, and conservatism today is not the conservatism of the Jim Crow Democrats. Reagan appointed the first female Supreme Court justice. GW Bush appointed the first Black Secretary of State, the first Hispanic Attorney General, and the first Black female Secretary of State. Those victories for equal opportunity came at the behest of the Republican Party.

The likes of Rand Paul are continuing a trend that has existed unbeknownst to many Americans of Republican ingenuity in getting opportunity to groups of people who have been screwed over. For whatever reason, this trend which defined the birth of the GOP and its 150-year history has been whitewashed.

Meanwhile, over on The Left, the conversation about how America can improve the lives of Black Americans has been dominated for decades by liberal charlatans like Al Sharpton who are captains of the “race industry” and whose careers hinge on inflaming the Black community. The personal success of these leaders is derived from racial strife.

They do not benefit when racial tensions ease. Neither does the current President.

Charitably put, President Obama has missed an unprecedented opportunity to use his bully pulpit as president to speak to the Black community in a way that would reduce racial strife and that could, if his hypothetical advice were taken to heart, measurably improve the lives of Black Americans.

Charitably put, Obama has failed miserably, instead choosing at several key moments to instead take sides and deepen the animosity felt when events happen like the death of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Charitably put, President Obama is a smart man and one who has tremendous credibility among Black Americans. It’s a shame – but not a surprise, given the way he’s run his presidency – that the president hasn’t taken the lead.

Not-so-charitably put, the President has instead chosen to inflame racial animosity as a means of dividing the electorate, securing a solid voting bloc, and pushing his cynical partisan narrative that Republicans are mean people. The President is a charlatan, too.

Conservative solutions with an ascendant Libertarian flavor will alleviate some of the problems faced by disenfranchised Black Americans. Continued demagoguery from the peanut gallery of The Left will not.

I truly hope that Black Americans begin to reconsider their monolithic devotion to a party that has only done them harm historically, only does them harm now, and whose policies will only harm them more in the future.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.