Reaching new demographics

One of the things that this election most vividly illustrated is that the lockstep political beliefs Democrats envision don’t really exist within their own party:  Blacks and Hispanics turned out in droves to help power Obama into the White House, but they were the same demographic that, in California, helped Proposition 8 (the anti-gay marriage Constitutional amendment) win.  In other words, while they loved the idea of a minority president, Blacks and Hispanics proved that they are still social conservatives.

We know that’s true in one other major area, too.  Blacks and Hispanics do not have the love affair with abortion that white liberals do.  Again, they are more conservative.

Blacks and Hispanics are also the ones who should be most interested in a fluid capitalist system.  America’s history shows that, absent specific discriminatory laws, American-style capitalism has consistently allowed new immigrants to ascend to the working and middle class within one or two generations — and that was true despite strong social discrimination.  (“No Irish need apply.”  “Jews not welcome.”)  In a fluid system, Irish and Jews and all other immigrant groups simply made their own success and then had the other groups eventually begging to join in.

Likewise, we know from the miserably failed Great Society experiment that a welfare state destroys blacks, as well as other minority and immigrant groups that buy into it.  It’s a true opiate, keeping them in a poverty stricken haze supported by small checks.  It saps ambition and initiative.  It’s like cocaine — a cheap high with the first hit/check, followed by dependence and degradation.

The problem for conservatives isn’t that we don’t have a good message for Hispanics and Blacks.  It’s that they won’t listen to us. Everything conservatives say is deflected, twisted and denied.  Point out that blacks make greater strides in the Bush administration than they did in the Clinton administration, and you’re told that those blacks weren’t real blacks, they were just Uncle Toms.  Point out that blacks made economic gains after welfare reform, and you’re told that systemic racism is still destroying them.  Point out that black on black crime, or Hispanic on Hispanic crime, is a scourge, and can best be dealt with by a strong police presence in ailing communities, and you’re told that you’re racist for trying to sic the cops on minorities.

We have so many good messages to give to minorities, but they refuse to hear them.

Funnily enough, C.S. Lewis best described the frustration conservatives feel when trying to communicate to minorities the benefits the conservative political system has for them. As you may know, The Last Battle, which is the last book in the Narnia series, envisions a Narnian Armageddon.  During the eponymous last battle, which pitches the forces of good and evil against each other, the dwarfs peel off and form their own coalition:  “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

For many Narnians during this last battle, death comes to them when they are pitched through the door of a dark, dank stable.  When the good characters are pitched through that door, they find themselves in a rich, beautiful pastoral environment.  The dwarfs, however, when pitched through that door find, not the fires of hell, but simply a dark, dank stable — and nothing anyone does can convince them otherwise:

They [the Dwarfs] had a very odd look.  They weren’t strolling about or enjoying themselves (although the cords with which they had been tied seemed to have vanished) nor were they lying down and having a rest.  They were sitting very close together in a little circle facing one another.  They never looked round or took anynotice of the humans till Lucy and Tirian were almost near enough to touch them.  Then the Dwarfs all cocked their heads as if they couldn’t see anyone but were listening hard and trying to guess by the sound what was happening.

“Look out!” said one of them in a surly voice.  “Mind whwere you’re going.  Don’t walk into our faces!”

“All right!”  said Eustace indignantly.  “We’re not blind.  We’ve got eyes in our heads.”

“They must be darn good ones if you can see in here,” said the same Dwarf whose name was Diggle.

“In where?” asked Edmund.

“Why you bone-head, in here fo course,” said Diggle.  “In this pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable.”

“Are you all blind?” said Tirian.

“Ain’t we all blind in the dark!” said Diggle.

“But it isn’t dark, you poor stupid Dwarfs,” said Lucy.  “Can’t you see the sky and the trees and the flowers?  Can’t you see me?”

“How in the name of all Humbug can I see what ain’t there?  Andhow can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?”

“But I can see you,” said Lucy.  “I’ll prove I can see you.  You’ve got a pipe in your mouth.”

“Anyone that knows the smell of baccy could tell that,” said Diggle.

“Oh the poor things!  This is dreadful,” said Lucy.  Then she had an idea.  She stopped and picked some wild violets.  “Listen, Dwarf,” she said.  “Even if your eyes are wrong, perhaps your nose is all right:  can you smell that?”  She leaned acorss and held the fresh, damp flowers to Diggle’s ugly nose.  But she had to jump back quickly in order to avoid a blow from his hard little fist.

“None of that!” he shouted.  “How dare you!  What do you mean by shoving a lot of filthy stable-litter in my face?  There was a thistle in it too.  It’s like your sauce!  And who are you, anyway?”

And so it goes as the good characters try desperately to make the Dwarfs realize that they are surrounded by beauty and plenty, while the Dwarfs can see only darkness and despair.  That scene so strongly reminds me of the way in which communications between the two groups are stymied by preconceived notions and prejudice, not about race, but about ideas.

The big challenge in the next few years is to shape conservative communications so that they break through these barriers, and show Blacks and Hispanics that they’re not living in a dank, poverty-stricken Marxist stable, but in a large, bountiful America, in which middle Americans share their conservative social values, and want them to share the nation’s capitalist bounty.