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Can the GOP count on the black religious vote in '08?


Homophobe Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX is on board with the Bush American Taliban agenda and sees strong future support for the GOP based on moral values. Vanderbilt University’s Director of Black Church Studies, Forrest E. Harris Sr., thinks the GOP used gay marriage as a political smokescreen.

Here’s a followup to the work the GOP is doing to cultivate relationships (and votes) with the religious black vote through the black church. My House Blend post last week was on the “pastor payoff” with faith-based initiative funding. This article is interesting because it has countering voices on the long-term prospects of holding on to that religious vote for the next general election. My belief is that this is a demographic the Democrats need to be worried about. The party has been way too complacent in expecting the black vote to “come home” when it gets down to the nitty gritty. {I would say this is a running theme with the Dems — they are doing the same with the gay vote.] The election was too close, and the fact that the GOP is able to shave off even a few points of the black vote should be alarming, but I’m not surprised it’s happening.

Make note of the names of the pastors in support of Bush here; it’s clear that they are going to be, if they are not already, recipients of the administration’s largesse, and given access to the President. The White House did not release the names of the religious black leaders that were included in a recent sit-down with Bush, but these stories give you an idea of who might have been on the list. (San Jose Mecury News):

In the first week of his second term, President Bush reached out to black religious, community and business leaders who embraced his moral views in the election. He reassured them that he still supports a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and they discussed his efforts to channel more money into faith-based programs.

…”I hope this last election was a wake-up call to the Democrats,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington and a Bush supporter. Do I see a trend? Yes. … Blacks who voted Republican made the difference in this election. “And if the same-sex issue is still on the political landscape in the next election, more blacks will vote Republican,” said McKissic, who has drawn national attention for his outspoken opposition to same-sex marriages.

…Some black pastors and political experts say the Republicans shouldn’t get too excited about what they believe was a one-time spike in black support. “There was a ballot initiative in Ohio to ban same-sex marriage,” said David Bositis, senior research associate for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, a think tank that studies issues and concerns about blacks. “Many of these states are not going to have gay marriage on the ballot in 2008 because many of them have already passed it.” Culturally, many conservative black voters relate to issues embraced by the GOP, such as opposition to abortion and to same-sex marriage. But that alignment on social issues didn’t produce as many black votes for Bush as some GOP strategists hoped. He won 11 percent in November, 2 percentage points more than in 2000.

Bositis pointed out that “self-identified black conservative Christians” represented only 20 percent of the black population – and even among that group, Democratic candidate John Kerry “still got more support than Bush did.

But, McKissic and other conservative black pastors said that for black churchgoers, how they vote is determined by how they feel about the candidate’s moral character. To them, Bush’s morals were beyond reproach and his stance on gay marriage, abortion and other issues was in lockstep with their beliefs.

Name me one issue that is more important than life – that’s the abortion issue – and the family, that’s the (same-sex) marriage issue,” McKissic said. “Those are the two most important issues, and the Democratic Party is on the wrong side of both of those issues. For blacks who vote on morality, these are the issues.”


Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas thinks the GOP has hijacked the meaning of morality for political gain. Philadelphia’s Rev. Herb Lusk, pastor of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church supports Bush; his coffers have been filled with a cool million for faith-based initiatives by the Administration.

…”The (gay-marriage) issue was used as a political smokescreen” in the November election, said Forrest E. Harris Sr., director of black church studies at Vanderbilt University and president of American Baptist College. “Unfortunately, it was reduced to what it means to be a moral person” as opposed to looking at morality in terms of how “we honor life and are fair and just.”

The Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, agreed with Harris, calling the Republican strategy of wooing black voters through morality a “red herring” that does not fully encompass the true meaning of the word. “We’ve never defined morality simply by those sex or flesh issues,” Haynes said. “Biblically speaking, morality has to deal with how you treat the poor, the less fortunate.”

The Rev. Herb Lusk, pastor of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia and a friend of McKissic’s, is a longtime Bush supporter. He gave the invocation at the 2000 Republican convention and called Bush’s 2004 win “a great victory.”

Like many other black pastors and church leaders around the country, Lusk has also benefited from the president’s faith-based initiative. He has received about $1 million in federal funding for a low-income program in Philadelphia, where he played professional football for the Eagles. But Lusk, like other black religious leaders, said his support of Bush has nothing to do with government money. [Give me a f*cking break.]

“It’s very important for both political parties to understand that there is opportunity for growth in the African-American population,” he said.

…Like McKissic, Lusk believes that the Republican Party can maintain, and even grow, the number of black voters by sticking to the morality theme.

But Haynes said he doesn’t believe those same methods will work as well in the future with black voters. “In this election, he fooled some of the people, big time,” Haynes said of Bush. “But I don’t think the Republican Party should count on fooling us next time.”

I disagree. I think way too many people can and will be fooled by emotional ploys by the GOP and the religious Right. Sadly, the average voter is willing to be led anywhere, and eats up whatever “facts” that are tossed their way without questioning (on either side) whether the information they are being spoonfed is true. Too few people use critical thinking skills and many just don’t have the time or interest to pay attention to what they see and read about candidates. Look at how far the Swift Boat liars got with that
mountain of prevarication. By the time Kerry responded, and even after they were discredited, polls showed it had an impact on their perception of Kerry. Repeat the lie often enough and it becomes the truth. Dems have to accept that and campaign against the GOP accordingly. Sad, but true.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding