Romney’s message for the NAACP

July 18, 2012


Mitt Romney’s speech to the NAACP convention in Houston was — according to one’s political perspective — a “calculated move on his part to get booed...” to help his white base (Rep. Nancy Pelosi), or a presentation to “independent thinking adult citizens” whom he treated as equals (Rush Limbaugh).

Having an adult conversation in a racially and politically polarized age is nearly impossible, especially when our current political culture does not require a solution to problems, only the use of rhetoric and symbols to gain political power.

The second “A” in NAACP stands for “advancement.” By any standard, African-Americans receiving government assistance do not appear to have advanced much, if by advancement one means progress toward a steady job. In fact, a serious argument could be made that they are falling farther behind.

“If equal opportunity in America were an accomplished fact,” Romney told his Houston audience, “then a chronically bad economy would be equally bad for everyone. Instead, it’s worse for African Americans in almost every way. ... In June, while the overall unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.2 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans actually went up, from 13.6 percent to 14.4 percent.”

Equally disconcerting are the number of births to single African-American women, the incarceration rate for African-American men, the number of failing public schools that sustain the cycle of poverty and crime in disadvantaged communities and a federal government that offers checks instead of solutions to problems, leading to a dependence on taxpayer dollars.

This was what Romney was getting at in his speech. He spoke of an economy that creates jobs. He spoke of creating stronger families and more opportunities for all Americans. He endorsed school choice. Why would members of the NAACP oppose parents choosing the school that offers the best education for their children? Perhaps some NAACP members oppose choice because the Democratic Party and the teachers unions to which they appear joined at the hip are against them.

The school voucher program provides federal tax dollars to subsidize private-school tuition for needy students and where vouchers are available, low-income students mostly benefit. Yet Democrats seem to want to block their escape from failing schools, maintaining the program doesn’t help most students. “The federal government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students,” says Obama’s statement of administration policy,

Reaction to Romney’s measured speech was predictable. Charlette Stokes-Manning, a chairwoman of Women in NAACP, said: “I believe his vested interests are in white Americans. You cannot possibly talk about jobs for black people at the level he’s coming from. He’s talking about entrepreneurship, savings accounts — black people can barely find a way to get back and forth from work.”

If a white person had said this, he would have been accused of racial stereotyping. Black people don’t know about savings accounts? Black people know nothing about entrepreneurship? Stokes-Manning should read Black Enterprise magazine, which bills itself as “Your #1 resource for black entrepreneurs.” Its slogan is “Wealth for Life.” Is Stokes-Manning suggesting blacks can’t succeed?

NAACP President Ben Jealous said of Romney’s speech, “He really wasn’t trying to talk to them (the audience). He was trying to talk to somebody else.”

He’s right. Romney was not speaking just to the Houston audience, mostly comprised of those tied to the civil rights establishment, but to those seeking jobs and a better life.

President Obama did not make the NAACP convention, citing a scheduling conflict. If he had shown up, he might have had to face questions about his failure to deliver on his 2008 campaign promises. Instead, Vice President Joe Biden attended and imagined what a Romney Justice Department would look like. The unserious Biden gave an unserious speech, but he was applauded. So was Romney at the end, though he was booed for saying he would repeal Obamacare.

What would the NAACP delegates have preferred to hear from Romney? A speech advocating higher black unemployment? More people on food stamps? That is what the Obama administration is giving them. What the NAACP needs is a freedom from government movement, but it won’t get one because the organization’s allegiance is less to African-American advancement than it is to the Democratic Party and the scraps it provides in exchange for votes.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


jayhawklawrence 4 years ago

I wonder if Romney even knows who Romney is.

No amount of damage control is going to make this speech relevant.

The great day and the great moment came and went.

The impact?

Not even a ripple from a guy who is probably more white than Larry Bird.

Paul R Getto 4 years ago

Settle down, Mr. Thomas. In a few months the election will be over and you will have four more years to pick on the re-elected President with your usual style and grace. Mr. Romney is a good fellow, but he has not much of a clue how to explain himself.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Having an adult conversation in a racially and politically polarized age is nearly impossible, especially when our current political culture does not require a solution to problems, only the use of rhetoric and symbols to gain political power."

Which Cal engages in in every column, including this one.

MarcoPogo 4 years ago

"No, Mr. McMurphy. When the meeting was adjourned, the vote was 9 to 9."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Maybe they should just do us all a favor and disappear your profile altogether. (I'm sure you'd just rise from the disappeared as you have so many times before.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

The above post was addressed to FHNC, whose post was removed (for repeating the same words that got the other post above removed.)

Maddy Griffin 4 years ago

So, who booed Biden?.......Nobody. Matter of fact, he got a couple of standing ovations. You were saying???

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

While I'm no fan of FHNC's constant "Flex" comments and his "Complex" comments, and I've told him so in this forum, yet his comment gets removed while another comment on another thread that states Republicans are "lying scumbags" stays up for many hours and is still up as I write this. I'm no fan of the suggesting removal of posts, but some level of consistency would be nice.

Maddy Griffin 4 years ago

Irrelevant? Have you looked at our current President?

jafs 4 years ago

I think that's unlikely.

Right now it seems to be quite even - I predict Obama will win, but by a rather small margin.

"not" somebody is often, if not always, a bad reason to vote in a certain way.

Independents are the big question mark, as usual - if they go for Romney, he has more of a chance of winning. Also, 3rd party candidates may have an effect - which way that affects things depends on which 3rd party we're talking about.

jafs 4 years ago

Mine is as good, if not better, than Liberal's - why do you single me out?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Are you better off now than you were in 2010? If not, given the "landslide" that Republicans won then, isn't it their fault that things aren't any better?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

No, Democratic President, totally stalemated Senate, and Republicanic House. I can add just fine, and it adds up to gridlock, which was perfect for the Republican agenda of full-out obstructionism.

jafs 4 years ago

Unless one side has a filibuster proof majority (60), the minority party can easily block them from accomplishing much, especially since they don't even make them actually filibuster anymore - the threat is sufficient.

Maddy Griffin 4 years ago

Amen,Bozo!! Even conservatives are regretting the role the teabaggers have in the mess that was 2010.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Speaking of dope,"

You're the only one toking up around here.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Just think."

Well, that's a different tack from your usual exhortations to shut down all cognitive function. Not that you followed through yourself.

JustNoticed 4 years ago

You're just not paying attention. Show some respect for a real journalist, Matt Taibbi.

tbaker 4 years ago

NAACP...oh yeah, that outfit started by a couple white republicans so they could help a poor and disadvantaged minority group.

If the availability of a basically unlimited amount of money (trillions), 8 different Presidential administrations, the determination of countless government bureaucracies and the eager willingness of 16 different congresses to pass anti-poverty laws were all the ingredients necessary to eliminate poverty, then it should have been wiped out years ago. Instead, it's about right where it was at when the Great Society program began over 40 years ago.

It is a mystery to me why an organization supposedly devoted to the advancement of a poor and disadvantaged minority group would steadfastly embrace politicians who do everything in their power to make sure they remain poor and disadvantaged. I suppose making sure they remain a loyal political constituency is more important than actually helping them.

beatrice 4 years ago

Cal opens this column by using a quote from radio ranter Rush Limbaugh as the supposed voice of reason when it comes to the NAACP. Seriously. The guy who was forced to quit from his Monday Night Football gig for making racially insensitive remarks is Cal's go-to guy on the NAACP. Wow. That in and of itself will tell you how slanted his column will be.

What, couldn't Cal find a good Don Imus quote to use?

Hopefully, every time Romney opens his mouth and says he will repeal "Obamacare," thousands and thousands of people presently without health insurance and no way to get it will decide they had better vote for Obama.

Abdu Omar 4 years ago

IF we are a country that purports to have its citizens equal under the law, and equal employment opportunity, and equal pay for equal work, and on and on, why then do we have the NCAAP or the House Black Caucus or other organizations and groups with the intent to advance the fate of colored people, African-Americans, and other minorities? We are all Americans and all equal in every sense but not the same in abilities or intellect or other measurablle attributes that doesn't include sex, color, race, creed, religion and national origin. This concept of special interests within the various groups, churches, etc. Why can't we look at ourselves as one nation? One people? One united and indivisable.

jaywalker 4 years ago

Best thing you've ever posted, w_s.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"IF we are a country that purports to have its citizens equal under the law, and equal employment opportunity, and equal pay for equal work, and on and on, "

Well, the key here is that we only purport to do this-- in reality, we're still a long ways from there.

jaywalker 4 years ago

"Having an adult conversation in a racially and politically polarized age is nearly impossible, especially when our current political culture does not require a solution to problems, only the use of rhetoric and symbols to gain political power."

Perhaps the most profound paragraph of Thomas' I've ever read. Not saying much, but it's something.

I actually thought Cal was going to finally put a full piece together, but then he fell into the familiar pattern of petulant, asinine, wholly obtuse, self-serving query's (reminds me of a poster here) that he likes to digress toward. Shame, 'cuz this could have been good. But then that's why Cal's so reliable.

Maddy Griffin 4 years ago

Romney was at the NAACP to bait. His comment after being booed proves it. Not only is he "out of touch", he's out of his friggin 'mind."Free Stuff"? How about a $77,000 tax break for a HORSE.

geekin_topekan 4 years ago

I think Cal hit it on the head with; " Democrats seem to want to block their escape from failing schools."

Faux news repubs want to "escape" but true Americans want to WORK for a better America, Cal.

The Party of Escape will vote for the Outrsourcer in Chief in an attempt to "escape". From what? Insert any boogie man you want.

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