Waiting for the Black Ronald Reagan

Allen West, Herman Cain and Tim Scott should learn from the first black president if they aspire to lead the GOP to the White House.

Allen West; Herman Cain; Tim Scott (Getty Images/Creative Commons)


Although he’s emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of Obama and Democrats among the GOP’s congressional freshman class, West’s plainspoken style has recently morphed into rank hostility and comportment that’s unbecoming of the career Army officer that he is.

With an email tirade this week in which he attacked fellow Florida Rep. and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz as “cowardly,” “despicable,” “vile” and “not a lady,” West has branded himself as impolite and irritable — and not a Reagan.


Unlike West, Scott mostly eschews the spotlight in favor of quietly building his reputation in Congress. But a few weeks ago, he hurt his own cause when he told constituents that if Obama sidestepped the pending congressional debt-ceiling battle with an executive decision to keep paying America’s bills without congressional say-so, it’d be “an impeachable act.”

He could be right. But Scott seems to have forgotten that some of the most prominent members of his own caucus — including presidential front-runner Michele Bachmann — have been arguing for weeks that even if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the president can still pay the bills.

We’ll see.

To be the black Reagan — someone who brings African Americans to the conservative fold in the way that Reagan drew working-class Democrats to the GOP — an African-American conservative has to be more than just the “I’m not like those other blacks” politician. The black Reagan — whoever he (or she) eventually turns out to be — has to connect his anti-government views to a sense of optimism about America’s future. He has to be — as they say — a uniter, not a divider.

And his platform has to be based on what he’s for, not just on being against all things Obama. Cain, West and Scott all oppose “ObamaCare” — a totally respectable Republican position in 2011. But after that? None of them has articulated a plan for competing economically with China, India and Brazil. None has a discernible strategy for fighting terrorism. None has a blueprint for expanding entrepreneurship in the black community. And, most conspicuously, none has the savoir faire needed to be the black Reagan — an exemplar of contemporary black conservatism.

It’s time for a black Reagan — someone who can effectively articulate to African Americans why some, at least, of the nine out of 10 black voters who vote Democrat should consider the alternative. And the GOP needs someone who can convince Republicans that a political party that only draws one out of 10 black votes isn’t going to be ready to lead the country when the time comes.

Right now, we’re still waiting.

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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