Earlier this week, I issued two edicts for presidential candidates. Don’t question an opponent’s love of country. And never presume to speak for members of the armed forces. Today, I have a rule for black elected officials (and potential office seekers), especially if they are Republicans. Never invoke slave imagery or liken yourselves to historical figures from the era. You’ll never measure up and you trivialize your argument — not to mention the sacrifices made by the heroes you think you’re honoring with such a comparison.
By calling himself “a modern-day Harriet Tubman,” a famed “conductor” of the Underground Railroad who freed more than 300 slaves over the course of a decade, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is a flagrant offender of this new edict. Take a look.
The Democratic Party is a “plantation.” Black elected officials, such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), “are nothing more than overseers over that plantation,” Therefore, blacks who consistently vote for Democrats are slaves, whose anger about the lack of jobs bubbled over at a Congressional Black Caucus town hall in Detroit on Tuesday. According to West, “The people on that plantation are upset because they’ve been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about.” But never fear: West, the only black member of the CBC, is “here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”
Just because African Americans are expressing their deep dissatisfaction with the jobs picture (like everyone else, btw) doesn’t mean they are ready to jump on the GOP bandwagon. Despite inconsistent efforts by some well-meaning past Republican Party chairmen, the Republican Party hasn’t exactly thrown out the welcome mat for blacks. I wish the party of Lincoln did aggressively court the African American vote. It would help both — and the nation — immensely. But we’re nowhere near getting to that point. So, if West wants to show black voters there is an alternative to the Democratic Party, he can start by laying off the slave nonsense. It bespeaks a condescending attitude from the GOP to which African Americans are quite accustomed.