Race and American Politics

New Audio:  Fauntroy Discusses President Reagan’s Legacy on NPR’s “Tell Me More”

Here is the link to my discussion (with former Reagan appointee Linda Chavez) on NPR's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin.  We discussed Reagan as we come to his 100th birthday and in the wake of Michael Reagan's column "Ronald Reagan -- Our First Black President?"

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, February 05, 2011
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Haley Barbour Rewrites GOP Racial History

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is mentioned among those serious candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.  Barbour is the consumate insider, having served in previous Republican presidential administrations and as chairman of the Republican National Committee.  He's smart, savvy, and ambitious.  That's why his recent attempt to rewrite the racial history of the Republican Party are particularly dangerous.  He's purposely trying to position the Party as less racist that it has been in recent decades.  If he can do that, then his position as governor of one of the most racist states in the Union won't be as much a detriment to his candidacy.

Political Correction has more on the story, including this Barbour quote:

BARBOUR: There's no question that in the fifties and probably the sixties there was some of that.  At the same time, the people who led the change of parties in the South, just as I mentioned earlier, was my generation.  My generation who went to integrated schools — I went to integrated college, um, never thought twice about itAnd it was the old Democrats who had fought for segregation so hard.  By my time, people realized that was the past, it was indefensible, it wasn't gonna be that way any more.  So the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican was a different generation from those who fought integration.  In fact, I can never forget — I mentioned we elected these two young congressman.  We were just itching to get a senator, and one of my friend said, "Haley, we're just a few funerals away." You had some of the old crowd that just wasn't going to give up on the Democratic Party because it was the party of the civil war, segregation.  

We all must pay close attention to the clear attempt by Barbour, among others, to rewrite America's racial history.  We must also call BS on those who do.  The problem, however, is that our populace is so willing to accept whatever is presented to it, Barbour is likely to ring true to some people.


Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, September 29, 2010
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“Pledge to America” Literally Ignores Black People

John Boehner Congressional Republicans have just introduced their "Pledge to America," their attempt to remind voters of their 1994 "Contract with America."  It hits on all their talking point greatest hits and is familiar reading for anyone who has paid any attention to the Grand Old Party during the last 30 years.  It familiar for another reason as well -- it's utter failure to include African Americans and other minorities in its policy plans.  As The Grio points out, Black people are invisible to the GOP.  Richard Trumka also has an interesting take on the "Pledge."

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Monday, September 27, 2010
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Cornel West Reflects on the Life of Ron Walters

Ron Walters Here is a clip from Tavis Smiley's radio show in which Cornel West reflects on the life and legacy of Professor Ron Walters, the great political science professor who recently died after a battle with lung cancer.  I had the high honor and privilege to be a student of Ron's when I was in graduate school.  I was further honored to have him serve on my dissertation committee and work with him on various panel discussions and book projects (I contributed a chapter to his last book, Democratic Destiny and the District of Columbia, which he co-edited with Toni-Michelle Travis).

I've heard quite a few people talk about Ron, some of whom actually knew him.  For me, he was the living embodiment of commitment to a cause.  He remained committed to helping the poor and locked out, never straying from the truth that service to those in need is more important than titles and accolades. His loss is a great one for African American political scientists and public intellectuals and a reminder that radio and television play is not a substitute for service.  Like a great musician, his intellectual catalog exists for all the world to see.  From South Africa and the Bomb, to Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora and from African American Leadership and White Nationalism, Black Interests, and beyond, he left us much to ponder.

Farewell Ron.  May your contributions be remembered for generations and may your legacy never be forgotten.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, September 25, 2010
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Rachel Maddow Broke Off Her Foot in Pat Buchanan’s Butt

I'm not late to the Pat-Buchanan-is-a-racist party.  I've been hip to his game for years.  While many others in the country have known this too, his recent comments regarding the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court have taken his racism into new corners of American society.  MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recently debated Buchanan on this and had a subsequent segment in which she responded to some previous comments.  Here's the video:

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Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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Interview Clip:  Michael Fauntroy Discusses Black Conservatives on NPR

Tell_me_more_2 I had the pleasure of participating in a discussion on NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin.  I, along with Armstrong Williams, discussed the quandary in which some Black conservatives find themselves.  Williams recently wrote a column in which he noted he may vote for Obama.

I've kept in touch with some of the African American Republicans I interviewed while writing Republicans and the Black Vote.  They seem both frustrated that the Party has done virtually nothing to compete for Black votes and embarrassed that the Democrats are running circles around them when it comes to developing candidates from all backgrounds.  It will be decades before the Republicans have women and minorities that can run serious campaigns for the presidency and the GOP should be more than a little embarrassed by this reality.  I'm convinced that there will be large numbers of African American Republicans, particularly those moderates and liberals among them, who will not be able to resist the urge to vote for the first Black president.  They won't want to answer "no" when their kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews ask, "So, did you vote for Obama?"

You can listen to the discussion here.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Friday, June 20, 2008
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On Obama’s Deracialization Strategy

Barack_obama_5 One of the major pillars of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign strategy have centered around something known as deracialization. It’s a dilemma-filled political strategy with a rich recent history.  Black candidates in majority-White jurisdictions – from L. Douglas Wilder in Virginia, to Norman Rice in Seattle, to Ron Kirk in Dallas, to Wellington Webb in Denver – have practiced it on their way to electoral wins.  Some see it as a necessary evil for Black candidates running in majority-White jurisdictions, while others see it as an unfortunate capitulation to the reality of White prejudice.  Either way, it’s part of doing business in American politics and Obama is beginning to see the downside of the only “racial” strategy that he had at his disposal.

Deracialization is an amorphous, never admitted to political practice that forces African American candidates to remove virtually all evidence of race as a central part of his or her being.  It’s a delicate socio-political dance that is partly a reaction to the reality of race in America.  White voters –  even progressive white voters – have adverse reactions to those candidates who don’t hide their Blackness. 

Obama’s decision to deracialize his candidacy was the only chance he had to avoid the dreaded “Black candidate” moniker. To divert attention from race, Obama has avoided some of the messy issues that have obvious racial dimensions.  Recently, Obama gave an uninspiring response to the acquittal of New York police officers who fired 50 shots in a car of unarmed Black men, killing one just hours before his wedding. 

Instead, he has emphasized vague traits like inclusion, change, and hope – the kinds of things that sound great but have many different connotations and may actually not amount to much. These traits are among the factors that have led Whites to conclude that he is acceptable because he’s not “bogged down” in race (we are so touchy about race that even mentioning it can lead to being seen as “bogged down” in it).  Indeed, he is seen as someone that “transcends” race, a slightly-offensive compliment that has legitimized him in the eyes of some White voters and led many skeptics to accept the notion that America is ready for a Black president.

The problem with deracialization, though, is that it raises the racial stakes for the candidate who practices it and the voting public.  The candidate has to continually narrow the topics on which he or she will address.  Meanwhile, voters may find themselves on the lookout for anything that may reveal the “real” candidate who seems to be too perfect.  They may punish the candidate if something does arise and that appears to be the case with Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

The deracialization strategy worked well for Obama until You Tube introduced Wright to the country. Now, all of a sudden, Obama’s deracialization strategy has been turned upside down by the reaction to Wright's words.  White voters are beginning to take a second look at the “transcendent one,” wondering if he may be hiding something about his true feelings on race.  Some are questioning his commitment to racial comity by virtue of his nearly 20 years as a member of Wright’s church.

The deracialization of Black candidates says more about the country than most are willing to admit and raises a number of questions that must be address before we can “go beyond race,” as some seem to want.  Why must the reality of race in America be submerged or, worse, ignored?  Why are candidates who intelligently raise issues that have racial dimensions immediately marginalized as the “Black” candidate or someone playing the race card?  Why is the “Black candidate” moniker so unpopular that Obama has gone to such great lengths to avoid it?

Michael K. Fauntroy is an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of Republicans and the Black Vote.  A registered Independent, he blogs at: www.MichaelFauntroy.com.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Tuesday, May 20, 2008
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Obama Divorces Wright

In a rather public breakup, Democratic presidential frontrunner Senator Barack Obama took severed ties today with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, contending that his former pastor’s words were outside the bounds of decency, calling them wrong and destructive.  I think Obama’s public denunciation of Wright was a necessary, albeit poll-driven, step that may keep his campaign from being derailed by the controversy surrounding Wright.  However, Obama may be kidding himself if he thinks he’s putting this issue to rest.  While it won’t keep him from the nomination, it will prove to be political poison in November.  Obama runs the risk of being seen as disingenuous by contending that he didn’t know what Wright was about.  After all, he disinvited Wright from his campaign announcement speech in February 2007.  Obama and his campaign knew then, and now, what Wright was about.

This may prove to be a seminal moment in the campaign that may cause a problem for him in the Black community.  Obama has essentially thrown a very popular Black minister under the bus.  That may not mean much to the larger society, but Black, church-going people may see this for what it is: poll-driven political expediency.  That may damage Obama more than we now know.

Michael K. Fauntroy is an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of the recently published book Republicans and the Black Vote.  A registered Independent, he blogs at:  www.MichaelFauntroy.com.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Tuesday, April 29, 2008
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Television Interview:  Michael Fauntroy on Voice of America TV

Voice_of_america Here is a clip from an interview I did on Monday, 28 April on Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Tuesday, April 29, 2008
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Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Journal

Rev_jeremiah_wright Bill_moyers_2 Here is a link to the Bill Moyers' interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright that aired Friday, April 25 on PBS' Bill Moyers' Journal.  Wright will also hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Monday, April 28.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, April 26, 2008
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Paperback Book Release:  Republicans and the Black Vote

Republicans_and_the_black_vote I'm happy to let you know that a new, updated paperback version of my most recent book, Republicans and the Black Vote, has just been published.  You can get from the publisher for $19.95.  The book explores how the Republican Party has used public policy and racial symbolism to demonize African Americans to fuel the party's rise to political dominance.  It's a timely topic, as presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain has at least voiced an interest in trying to win African American support.   His recent tour of Selma, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana have sparked interest in just how seriously he will pursue the Black vote.  Obviously, I'm biased, but I'm proud of the book and think you'll learn something if you read it.

Here are some book jacket comments --

"An illuminating analysis of how the Republican Party has strayed from African American voters and how much ground there is to make up."—Keith Reeves, Political Science Quarterly

"A balanced and nuanced discussion of race-party intersections.... I recommend this book highly."—Peter W. Wielhouwer, Perspectives on Politics

"Tackling a topic that has not received nearly as much attention as it merits, Fauntroy's timely work provides a comprehensive overview of the GOP in relationship not only to black voters, but to racial politics writ large."—Linda Faye Williams, University of Maryland

"A comprehensive and much-needed analysis of party identification among African Americans since passage of the 15th and 19th Amendments.... Fauntroy does a great job assessing the obstacles plaguing the Republican Party."—Maruice Mangum, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, April 26, 2008
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Obama’s Strategy Proves We Haven’t Come That Far

Obama_at_podium Supporters of Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign have consistently underscored the belief that because he transcends race he can bring people together like no other candidate.  This argument took on particular momentum after the Iowa caucuses, as everyone seemed to marvel at the extent to which Obama won support from Whites.  Obama supporters  pointed to his cross-racial appeal as proof that the country has come a long way to overcome racism.  There is no question that America infinitely better now than it has ever been on the issue of race.  However, as I look at the campaign’s response to three biggest controversies it has faced, I can only conclude that we haven’t come as far as some think.  Indeed, it’s not a stretch to contend that his campaign is largely dedicated to not scaring White voters.

The first controversy cropped up at the victory party following Obama’s Wisconsin primary win. Michelle Obama took to the microphone and made a comment that went over like a lead balloon.  Her statement that she, for the first time in her life, felt proud of her country gained her significant enmity and put her on the road to isolation as she was portrayed as the stereotypical angry Black woman.  Once lauded as the campaign “closer” and secret weapon, other than one national television appearance a week before the Pennsylvania primary, she seems to have gone missing-in-action and you might need a GPS and a Sherpa to find her.  I guess even the wife of the candidate can be muzzled for the cause.

The second controversy was the firestorm created by the response to parts of sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright that were revealed on the Internet. Wright was long seen as a problem for the campaign for some time, which helps explain why he was disinvited from giving the invocation at Obama’s candidacy announcement in February 2007.  But Wright’s long relationship with the presidential candidate couldn’t easily be brushed under the rug.  He was Obama’s pastor for 20 years, conducted the Obama’s wedding ceremony, and baptized their children.  But Obama was so shocked and chagrined by some of Wright’s publicized words (and the attendant firestorm) that he had to give an address on race to allay White concerns.  The speech was universally praised not for what it said, but what it didn’t.  The speech did not make White voters afraid that he was some closet “race man” fully prepared to remind them of the history of American racism.  Even though the speech was well-received, it wasn’t enough, so he went further and said in a television interview that he would leave the church if Wright remained as pastor. 

The third controversy has two parts.  Part one was in February, when Obama declined an invitation to the 9th annual State of the Black Union symposium hosted by Tavis Smiley and held in New Orleans.  This symposium brings together some of the finest educators, practitioners, and analysts who work on uniquely Black issues from housing to education to health care and beyond.  Part two was the recently held commemoration of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis.  Obama declined to attend the event choosing to campaign in Indiana.  The campaign tried to spin the absence by noting Obama was speaking in the same location in which Bobby Kennedy broke the news that Dr. King was assassinated.  Both absences speak of a candidate trying hard to avoid overtly Black events.

It seems to me if we really have made the progress the campaign and its supporters says we have, then White voters would not have felt threatened or offended by Michelle Obama, would have listened more carefully to what Wright said, not just how he said it, and would not have thought twice that the first African American presidential candidate with a real chance at winning going to such public majority-Black events as the State of the Black Union and the King memorial (Who in their right mind would object to Obama attending the King commemoration?)  The Obama campaign’s response to these events tells the story of an operation that doubts the country has come as far as it argues the country has.  Indeed, the campaign’s response to these candidates demonstrates a lack of faith in the notion that America is really ready for a Black president.

Michael K. Fauntroy is an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of the recently published book Republicans and the Black Vote.  A registered Independent, he blogs at: www.MichaelFauntroy.com.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, April 17, 2008
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Radio Interview Clip—Fauntroy Discusses Obama and Farrakhan on NPR’s News and Notes

I had the pleasure of joining Debra Dickerson and Wayne Bennett on the Wednesday, February 27th edition of NPR's News and Notes.  We discussed the Democratic presidential campaign and the back-and-forth over Minister Louis Farrakhan's recent praise of Barack Obama. Check it out when you can.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, February 27, 2008
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Stand Strong, Tavis

One of the really unfortunate aspects of the current battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is the apologetic position that appears to be taking root in the Black community regarding Barack Obama’s candidacy.  It goes something like this: “We shouldn’t press him too much to talk about Black issues because that might mess it up for the brother.”  This color-before-accountability group-think has led to some sad examples of Blacks turning on each other for having the audacity to ask Obama to discuss his agenda for Black America.  Tavis Smiley has recently been caught up in a silly battle because he had the temerity to not accept the company line regarding Obama’s campaign. 

Tavis_smiley_2_2 Smiley has been subjected to a slew of criticism and threats since he criticized Obama on the Tom Joyner Morning Show after the Democratic presidential frontrunner announced that he would not attend Smiley’s annual State of the Black Union symposium this year in New Orleans.  I think the criticism of Smiley is ridiculous and have a message for him: Stand Strong.  (Disclosure: I appeared on Smiley’s PBS show in September to analyze the Republican presidential candidates’ forum at Morgan State University). 

Smiley has been nothing if not consistent.  He has always advocated the importance of the issues over the candidates and has stressed the need to hold the candidates accountable when it comes to Black problems.  What’s wrong with that?  You better believe that other segments of the electorate will do this with regard to their unique issues.  Latino/a voters will hold him accountable on immigration.  Jews will hold him accountable on Israel.  Wall Street will hold him accountable on business and taxes.  And Black people are supposed to just sit in a corner, be quiet, and hope that Obama will get to our issues?  I say no!!  This is a hat-in-hand approach to politics that has gone on long enough.  Smiley is right.  If we can’t seek accountability now, then when can we?

Obama has said that he couldn’t appear at the forum because he would be campaigning.  That’s a thin argument when one considers that there is more than enough time in the day to do both.  If Obama wanted, he could have gone to New Orleans, which is next to Texas by the way, spoken in the morning and been back in the Lone Star State by noon for a long day of campaigning.  Candidates go from state to state all the time, so this would have been no big deal.  Indeed, simple math reveals just how inefficient Obama’s decision was.  Let’s say he held four campaign rallies during the day, each with 20,000 attendees for a total of 80,000.  That’s a fraction of the one million or more likely to watch the State of the Black Union event live on C-SPAN.  The best use of his time, purely in terms of being seen by the widest possible audience, was to go to New Orleans.  As a compromise, he could have appeared live via satellite from a convenient location.

Black America has many needs.  I think among them is the need for people in positions of influence to stand up for principles over politicians.  If it’s wrong to ask a Black presidential candidate to address Black people and speak on Black issues, then we are not doing our jobs as citizens and voters.

Michael K. Fauntroy is an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of the book Republicans and the Black Vote.  A registered Independent, he blogs at: www.MichaelFauntroy.com.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, February 23, 2008
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Video Clip—Fauntroy Tears Sean Hannity a New One

Here are two clips of my appearance on the Thursday, January 24, 2008 edition of Hannity and Colmes;  thanks to the good people at News Hounds for posting the video. I don't know much about News Hounds.  But they were nice to me in their description of how things went, so they're "Kool and the Gang" as we might say:

Fauntroy was a great guest who refused to be apologetic for African Americans’ enthusiasm at the prospect of a black president.

“So it’s perfectly normal if somebody votes for a white candidate because they’re white?” Hannity sneered in his bullyboy voice.

But Fauntroy did not allow himself to be intimidated, demanded to finish his thoughts (he compared blacks’ affinity for Obama to Italians for Giuliani or Mormons for Romney) and Hannity eventually backed off with a smile, as he almost always does when someone really stands up to him.

First Segment:

Second Segment:

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, February 23, 2008
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