When the British campaign to leave the European Union was launched, it was given a simple name, Brexit, short for British exit. Now an American media star has come up with a variant of that label, Blexit, short for Blacks leaving the Democratic Party. It was coined by Candace Owens, whom The Washington Post recently profiled as “the new face of black conservatism.”
Owens came up with the idea of Blexit after a meeting in February 2018 with Nigel Farage, a co-leader of the successful Brexit referendum, The Post reported. Owens had a message for Democrats: “Sixty years black people have been voting the same. What have we gotten back?
That’s the plantation. We do the work, we make sure you get elected every four years. You get the power and we get absolutely nothing back.” She added, “This is the revolution and we are going to save America.” for Blexit Michael Harriot, writing in The Root, offered a different perspective in a column a year earlier, headed, “How the Republican Party Became the Party of Racism.” He began by asking, “What’s the difference between a Klan rally and a Republican Convention?”
The answer: “The dress code.”
And: “How white is the Republican Party?”
For this answer, Harriot cited a Pew Research Center finding that 83 percent of registered Republican voters are non-Hispanic whites.
Some Republican Party supporters point, correctly, to the early Grand Old Party’s anti-slavery and pro-civil rights record, which Harriot conceded. “In fact,”
he said, “most blacks identified with the GOP from Reconstruction until the election of Franklin Roosevelt. Until Carol Mosely Braun’s election in 1992, every African American who served in the United States Senate belonged to the Republican Party. Twenty-one black men served in the House of Representatives before a black Democrat was elected. It was the party of progressive values.”
“The Democratic Party, on the other hand, was the party of the South,” Harriot continued. “It was the party of social conservatism. It wanted to preserve slavery and segregation. It opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. It was the party of states rights, small government and Jim Crow. The Democratic Party wouldn’t even allow blacks at the [party] convention until 1924, mostly to appease the Southern base of the party still ‘butthurt’ about losing the Civil War (they still haven’t gotten over that one). After the Civil War, the Democrats in the ‘Solid South’ blamed Republicans for ending slavery and refused to vote for them.”
But that was then. Harriot said actions by Democratic presidents – Harry Truman’s desegregation of the Army followed by laws to end Jim Crow; John F. Kennedy’s federalizing the Alabama National Guard to force an end to segregation at the University of Alabama; Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing the Civil Rights Act – caused the “Solid South” to turn from the Democratic Party towards racism.
“Not only did the pro-segregation, antiblack Southerners switch sides but they [also] brought their political ideology with them,” Harriot said. “The Democratic Party is now the progressive party that welcomes immigrants and the Republican Party has become the party of small government, law and order and conservatism.
In 2016, 73 percent of white voters in the South voted Republican.”
Indeed, in recent years, Republican leaders at the state level have been gutting both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. And the party has been taken over by President Donald Trump, who, among other things, was sued for housing discrimination as a real estate magnate and paid $85,000 for newspaper ads denouncing the “Central Park Five” group of 13- and 14-year-old African Americans and Latinos who were railroaded in court on false charges of raping and brutally beating a white jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989. They were exonerated after years in prison.
In any case, it will probably be difficult for African Americans to feel comfortable in a GOP whose members are now almost exclusively white, many of them harboring racist views. Harriot cites surveys which found that a majority of voters who supported Trump in 2016 believe African Americans are “less evolved” than whites, “most just don’t have the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up out of poverty” and diversity hurts whites.
Only about eight percent of African Americans voted for Trump in 2016. He claims he will win over 95 percent of them in the 2020 elections, ABC News reported. How that will happen only the president knows. African American Republicans have been calling on the party for years to broaden its appeal, most recently after Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama in 2012. The Republican National Committee pledged to spend $10 million for the outreach, ABC News reported. The initiative quickly collapsed, especially after Michael Steele, the first African American chairman of the Republican Committee, was ousted from office. And two stalwarts – U.S Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Housing Secretary Ben Carson – are not exactly paragons of enlightened African Leadership. In any case, with Trump feeling secure in his white cocoon, he does not see any need to expand his base.
So it does seem that there is need for a Blexit, just not the one Candace Owens envisages.