|Leah Wright Rigueur is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power (Princeton University Press, 2015) covers more than four decades of American political and social history, and examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians.|
(From The Daily Beast)
Our assumptions about blacks in the Republican Party are teleological and ahistorical, informed by the Republican Party as it exists in the present; thus our views are often flat, lacking historical depth. Surely this understanding denies us the messiness that is at the heart of our beliefs and at the core of our personal politics: the ongoing debate that each one of us has with ourselves and with others about which politicians and policies we should support and about what ideologies we should embrace.
Our implicit views of black Republicans—either as strange alien creatures or as noble exceptions among their duped Democratic brethren—reject the notion of political choice; too often we assume that blacks in America are Democrats by default; though not intentional, that assumption denies agency to an entire group of citizens. In this scenario, black Republicans are simultaneously invisible and hypervisible: isolated political misfits who provoke extreme reactions. These views, whether voiced by liberals or conservatives, of any race, are troublesome, muting reality and history and ignoring the complex ways that race and politics inter- sect in the United States. Simply put: our views obscure the fascinating diversity that exists within this “strange” group known as black Republicans, obscuring their historical significance over the past three-quarters of a century; this, in turn, conceals a richer understanding not only of black politics but of American politics more generally.
Exploring black politics over nearly half a century, disrupts many of our perceptions about African Americans who support the GOP; at times we find not a peculiar group of blacks, desperate for white acceptance or out of touch with American realities but rather a movement of African Americans working for an alternative economic and civil rights movement. At other moments, we see a cadre of figures who make cynical concessions in order to maintain a modicum of power.
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