Hope Sells

Hope Sells

A hundred years or so ago (give or take a few decades), when we were young and naïve, we wrote a series of articles suggesting that a handful of developments in urban black communities around the country might be the portent of a partisan/ideological shift in that community.  If we recall correctly (and that gets harder and harder to do as the years pass), the series started by noting the efforts of the Reverend (and former Democratic Congressman) Floyd Flake, who was raising and disbursing funds to inculcate urban populations with the principles of free enterprise and to encourage economic risk-taking and entrepreneurship.

Interestingly, our interest in the subject led us to the religious groups that helped expose the modern-day black slave trade in North Africa and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars a year buying and then liberating black slaves in countries like Libya and Sudan.  That, in turn, led us to questions about foreign financial support for these State-Department-sanctioned, terrorist-supporting, slave-trading regimes, the answers to which pointed to the Chinese Communist Party, China National Petroleum Company, and CNPC’s listed arm, PetroChina.  But that, we suppose, is a story for another day.

In the meantime, we think it’s important to note that all of the stories we did about the potential political conversion of black Americans involved religion and its centrality in the lives of a significant percentage of the black population.  Note, for example, that the aforementioned Floyd Flake is the senior pastor at the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, an African Methodist Episcopal church in Queens and one of the largest churches in the country, with more than 23,000 members.  Or, as Gallup put it a few years back:

The relationship between religiosity and party identification in the U.S. has been both constant across time and most demographic groups within the population, including age, gender, region, and socio-economic status. Within each category of these groups, Americans who are the most religious are the most likely to be Republican, while those who are the least religious are the most likely to be Democratic.

The one exception to the basic religiousness and party identification relationship occurs among black Americans, who tend to be the most Democratic of any major race and ethnic group measured. Blacks are very religious on average, but the political orientation of blacks who are nonreligious does not vary significantly from those who are very religious.

Our old friend Grover Norquist has been saying for decades that conservatives should consider Hispanic immigrants natural allies, rather than likely liberal/Democratic supporters.  The key, he has always said, is their religiosity, which places them at odds with most of the rest of the Democratic coalition.  Our thoughts back when we wrote stories about Floyd Flake were similar: as the Democratic Party accelerates its move toward secularism and its concomitant hostility to people of religious faith, black Americans would, in time, feel more out of place in the Democratic Party and would, therefore, shift rightward, especially on cultural matters.

We were wrong, in the near term, of course, and we eventually quit writing about this potential social and political shift because we grew tired of the consistency of our predictive ineptitude.  That is NOT, however, to say that we gave up the idea entirely.

We were reminded about all of this yesterday, on two independent occasions.  The first of these was the appearance by South Carolina Senator (and Republican presidential candidate) Tim Scott on ABC’s “The View.”  For now, we’ll avoid taking sides in the debate over whether conservatives should ever agree to appear with such hostile and ignorant political adversaries as the “ladies” of “The View.”  We will, however, note that the headline clip from Senator Scott’s appearance demonstrates why we like him so much and what differentiates him from most of today’s big-name politicians.  Watch the clip.  Senator Scott is this generation’s “Happy Warrior.”  He is optimistic; he is hopeful; he sees the silver lining in the clouds and often uses that lining to disperse the rest of the cloud.  And note, a big part of the Senator’s profoundly positive disposition is his faith in God:

Sen. Tim Scott, one of the country’s most prominent Black Republicans, kicked off his presidential campaign here Monday, highlighting his biography and Christian faith, while also attacking President Biden in a speech that set him apart from some rivals in tone and content.

Speaking to a packed gymnasium, Scott invoked scripture and at times adopted the tone of a preacher, asking the crowd for an “amen” and “hallelujah,” as he walked around a stage with a handheld microphone. In a speech that sought to hit uplifting notes, he described himself as a “kid raised in poverty” who went on to serve in Congress and warned of a nation “retreating away from patriotism and faith” under Biden….

The latest entrant into the growing primary field, the South Carolina Republican is betting that emphasizing his faith, his personal story and a more optimistic message than other GOP hopefuls, while hauling in significant campaign cash, will be enough to carry him to the Republican nomination.

The second reminder of our ages-old ideas came from the diametrical opposite end of the political spectrum from Tim Scott but much, much closer on the religious spectrum.  And it came in the form of another announcement of a presidential candidacy, this one for the nomination of the People’s Party from radical leftist intellectual Cornell West.

We’ll be blunt: Cornell West is an acquired taste.  And more to the point, his leftism includes a pro-Palestinian sentiment that, at the very least, pushes him into some rather unsavory positions regarding Israel and the Jewish people in general.  He denies that he is an anti-Semite, of course, but the accusation has been leveled against him more than once.

In any case, while West parrots the far Left on Israel, he breaks from the Left entirely on God.  He is an outspoken, Bible-quoting Christian.  He believes in God, believes he is redeemed through Christ, and believes that Christ’s message was that we should all love one another.  Additionally – and perhaps most transgressively – West believes that contemporary liberalism (“neo-liberalism” as he prefers to call it) ineluctably foments nihilism and despair and that Christianity is the unavoidable solution to these ills.

Don’t get us wrong.  There is MUCH on which we disagree with West about every subject imaginable – not the least of which is religion.  Moreover, we think he’d be a disastrous president (not that he is running as anything other than a novelty candidate).  Still, his faith and his religious mission to black America give us hope.

For obvious reasons, we are more than a little reticent to make predictions about the political/partisan future of the broader black community.  At the same time, though, we’re not sure we have to make predictions or even expect any shift in voting patterns to recognize the common religious ground that much of the conservative movement shares with much of the black community and to see that in itself as a positive, hopeful shared vision.

Best of luck to Professor West in his candidacy.  Even better luck to Senator Scott.  Hope sells.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.