MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The South Carolina Tea Party Convention was challenged Sunday to convince blacks to flee the party of slavery and once again embrace their Republican roots by embracing a philosophy some conservatives would consider akin to heresy.
“The political insight of Frederick Douglass is more important than the political insight of the Founding Fathers,” attendees were told.
While conservatives are used to hearing liberals speak ill of the Founding Fathers, this statement was made by K. Carl Smith, founder of the Frederick Douglass Republicans.
He noted that polls consistently show more people identify themselves as conservatives than liberals in America. With that in mind Smith went on to explain why it is that the word “conservative” has such a negative connotation among blacks today and when the problem first began.
“We must understand this, because if we don’t, we will never win the White House again,” Smith warned.
When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Smith explained, 18 senators voted against it with Barry Goldwater being the lone Republican. Yet Smith explained that unlike the Democrats who voted against the bill, Goldwater’s opposition had nothing to do with racism.
“He voted against it not because he was a racist; he voted against it based on constitutional grounds,” Smith explained. “Goldwater voted against that bill based on Title II and Title VII, which dealt with accommodations and employment.”
But when the GOP went on to nominate Goldwater to run against Lyndon B. Johnson later that year, Smith said, it soured black voters on the party.
“When that happened, the black electorate felt alienated,” Smith explained. “The party of Lincoln, the party of emancipation – the black folks felt politically homeless. The RNC turned their backs on them by nominating Goldwater, the man who voted against the bill.”
He noted the same day Goldwater was nominated, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. issued a press release condemning the nomination.
“It is both unfortunate and disastrous that the Republican Party has nominated Sen. Barry Goldwater as a candidate for the presidency of the United States,” Dr. King said in the release. “On the urgent issue of civil rights Sen. Goldwater represents a philosophy that is morally indefensible and politically and socially suicidal. While not a racist himself, Mr. Goldwater articulates a philosophy which gives aid and comfort to the racists.
“His candidacy in philosophy will serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes will stand,” King continued. “In light of these facts and because of my love for America, I have no alternative but to urge every Negro and every white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and withdraw support from any Republican candidate that does not publicly disassociate himself when it comes to Goldwater.”
Smith explained that what King was essentially saying was that Goldwater wanted to be so constitutionally right that he was morally wrong.
“When we say that we are conservative or Republican, the wall goes up and falls on deaf ears,” Smith explained. “Goldwater was actually an integrationist. He was one of the first business owners in Arizona to hire black cashiers and he encouraged other business owners to do likewise.”
Smith said 1964 was the tipping point where blacks joined the Democratic Party en masse.
“Think about that. We had to go back and join the party of our oppressors because we felt [betrayed] by the Republican Party,” he said. “Blacks did not become Democrats because of entitlements. … They felt sold out. Here’s the irony of this: It was the Democratic Party that gave us segregation. Under the Democratic Party they gave us the KKK and slavery. So blacks, instead of staying in the party of Lincoln, they felt alienated. They were politically homeless.
“In 1960 Richard Nixon received 32 percent of the black vote,” Smith pointed out. “Four years later Goldwater received 6 percent of the black vote, and it has been that way ever since. Romney received 6 percent of the black vote.”
Smith said while the solution is not to turn away from conservative values, there is a change of direction the party and conservatives need to take.
“If we are serious about defending the Constitution, if we are serious about defending liberty and want to preserve the blessings of liberty for prosperity, we must make Frederick Douglass an integral part of the conservative message,” Smith said. “Frederick Douglass is the abyss over the bridge of racism and class warfare that has been created by the left. When I say that I am a Frederick Douglass Republican, you can’t call me a racist or sellout. He was a victim of racism.
“Douglas defeats the class-warfare attacks. When Douglas died this man who was born below poverty had over $300,000 in savings. That is more than $10 million today,” Smith explained. “He was born a 47 percenter. The slavemaster provided his health care and provided shelter, clothing and food. He died a 1 percenter.
“The left doesn’t have an answer for Frederick Douglass,” Smith said. “Once this Frederick Douglass message gets out on a national level, you’ll see liberals jumping out the window. They have no answer for Douglas.”
He then said that in order to use this methodology to reach blacks, tea-party members and Republicans must be willing to make what seems like a difficult choice and admit that the Founding Fathers had faults that provide fodder liberals are quick to use against tea-party groups and members.
“The political insight of Frederick Douglass is more important than the political insights of the Founding Fathers,” he said.
Smith went on to explain that he appreciates the Republic the Founding Fathers gave us, but conservatives need to realize they cannot get around the fact that some of them owned slaves.
“The Founding Fathers gave us two magnificent documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” Smith said. “Now some of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. They did not free their slaves once the Constitution was ratified, some of them released their slaves after they died.
“Therefore their view of liberty is somewhat tainted, and the left plays on that,” Smith said. “Frederick Douglass did not own any slaves. He was a slave. But in his writing and in his speeches he affirms both the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. Douglass said on one occasion the Constitution says, ‘We the people,’ it does not read, ‘We the white people.’
“Douglass went on to say if black folks are people, then they are intended to be benefactors of this Constitution,” Smith continued. “Douglas went on to say the problem is not with the Constitution; the problem is with the application of the Constitution. The problem is not with the Bible; the problem is the application of the Bible.”
Smith went on to give two examples of how this philosophy will work if tea-party members are willing to put it into practice.
The first involved Louisiana State Sen. Elbert Guillory, who left the Democratic Party to become a Republican. Smith said when first started considering leaving the Democratic Party he called Smith, who began mentoring him and teaching him about Frederick Douglass Republican methodology.
“This gave him the inspiration and the grit to come out of the closet. This message works,” Smith said.
The other example involved Sharron Angle, who narrowly lost to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a six-term Democrat from Nevada.
Angle told Smith that one day while in the Atlanta airport three black women recognized her and asked where she was going. She told them she was flying to Atlanta to meet a Frederick Douglass Republican friend of hers. Angle said when they asked her what that meant, she said Frederick Douglass stood for life and imparted values and I am a Frederick Douglass Republican. They then asked her if she would come speak in their church.
“The RNC has it wrong. The RNC wants to invite themselves into black churches,” Smith said. “No you wait to get invited, but you’ve got to have a message. It works. It’s bulletproof.”