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.


geekin_topekan 1 year, 9 months 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.


grammaddy 1 year, 9 months 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.


jaywalker 1 year, 9 months 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.


Abdu Omar 1 year, 9 months 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.


beatrice 1 year, 9 months 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.


tbaker 1 year, 9 months 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.


Liberal 1 year, 9 months ago

I am always amazed at the people in this town that assume that the president will be reelected. All I have to say is remember 2010. People are fed up and the will vote for Romney in droves if for no other reason then it is not Obama.


Agnostick 1 year, 9 months ago

2004: Swift Boating

2012: Swiss Bloating


Gotland 1 year, 9 months ago

Black people have made themselves irrelevant in politics by consistently voting for one party that has no interest in helping them.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 9 months ago

I 'surmise' that the complex Hawaiian is a shoe-in for 2012 and it gets 'removed'.

While complex intellectual Liberal make 'racist' comments.



rockchalk1977 1 year, 9 months ago

Good points Cal. At least Romney had the courage to attend. Obama sent his incompetent lapdog VP Biden as to avoid the boos sure to come his way. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the name alone shows how out of touch this group really is.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months 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.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 9 months 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.


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 9 months 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.


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