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The GOP's "Free Stuff" Myth
Imagine that someone came to your house and asked for your vote in an upcoming election. That candidate could offer you a number of things in exchange for your vote - economic improvements so you have better opportunities for your business, better infrastructure so the value of your home would grow, or the elimination of corruption so you know your tax dollars are spent with the best intentions.
Imagine if that candidate offered you the chance to stop being a free loader off of the government. Such an offer would be insulting on its surface of course. "Vote for me and I will make sure you never have to smooch off of the government again."
Of course, no candidate who actually wants to appeal to a voter would say such a thing to his or her face. So why is it that Jeb Bush says he will appeal to African-American voters by convincing them they really do not need "free stuff"? Bush's statement at a town hall this week in South Carolina raised eyebrows. His point that "Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff" was disheartening on so many levels.
First, a majority of African-Americans are not on welfare. It's not clear if Bush was referring to SNAP, WIC or some similar government assistance, but most African-Americans are not on these programs. Second, the disparity in African-American support between Democrats and Republicans can be traced back to the Civil Rights movement, not necessarily the creation of these assistance programs. Finally, even if the above were not true, what candidate would verbalize such a thought and expect to gain support from African-Americans?
The GOP has a history of struggling to appeal to minorities, particularly African-Americans. Since the 1960 presidential election, the party has not earned 20% of African-American votes. Worse yet, the party has only garnered more than 10% in two elections since 1996. With abysmal numbers like these, it is no surprise that GOP candidates would cater to ill-informed generalities instead of working to correct them. This is unfortunate, since so few voters will be persuaded to consider the GOP this time around.
Bush is not the only GOP presidential candidate in recent memory to make such a claim. Mitt Romney made a similar claim twice during the 2012 election - once at a Montana fundraiser and once in his post election press conference call following his defeat. Rick Santorum's statement during that 2012 election, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money" is another example of this disconnect.
It's unfortunate that such misnomers riddle our politics. The GOP could utilize a stronger relationship with this minority group, and African-Americans would benefit from having an alternative political choice, ensuring their support is earned, not given by default. Meanwhile, it is hard to see how anyone is convinced to vote FOR the party when its leaders make such statements; however, it is easy to see how people are turned AWAY from it.
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