One of the lesser discussed anomalies of US elections (especially the recent presidential election) is the voting pattern of the African-American community. They vote Democratic despite being as conservative (or almost as conservative) on a wide range of issues as Republicans.
The evidence certainly points to the typical African American person being more conservative than the typical white person (European American, if you prefer) on issues such as taxes, gay marriage, sexual abstinence education and the teaching of creationism in the classroom .
Once upon a time, the Republican party was the party of choice for African Americans. In the middle of the 19th century, the Grand Old Party was more pro-abolitionist in its stance and more in favour of racial equality. But times changed. Franklin D Roosevelt with his New Deal Policies was seen as offering better prospects for disenfranchised minorities and the drift towards the Democrats began.
What emerged in the recent presidential election was a divided country - this at a time when it faces major fiscal and economic challenges. At such a time, a nation needs a leader that will unite as many people as possible behind him or her. Much as I admire the guy, I don't see Barack Obama being able to do that. He's not bringing white Conservatives with him in enough numbers. Of course, Mitt Romney, the epitome of white privilege never offered much appeal to minorities - even those that aren't economically disadvantaged.
Obama's greater appeal - guy from disadvantaged background who made it to the top - lies in his being the personification of what Americans believe is their country's greatest trait: you can be whatcha wanna be. By dint of hard work, discipline and self-sacrifice, you can be as successful as anyone. These are conservative values, conservatives should be rushing to support him. Of course, they don't because he's a liberal. There's also perhaps some subtle white-on-black racism but I don't think that's insurmountable.
Personally, I think a conservative African American president offers the best prospects of uniting the country. I don't think his/her being African American would pose an issue for conservatives. Ideological compatibility would far outweigh that.
A conservative African American president would also bring along his/her own community with them because he/she shares not only their race but also their values. I think you'd also get a greater level of sympathy from liberals for whom an African-American wouldn't represent the usual same old white Republican patriarchy.
Then there's charisma. A quick look back over white Republican candidates and presidents in the last few decades reveals a serious deficit in personal magnetism and basic likeability. Sometimes, like Newt Gingrich, they can actually be loathsome.
A basic lack of eloquence is also an issue. I'm not just thinking of all those Reaganisms, Bushisms and Dubyaisms that even now make us laugh out loud. I'm talking about the ability to rouse an audience with a speech. When was the last time a white Republican made the hairs rise on the back of your neck? Obama did it for me - once.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the best American speeches I've heard over the decades have all come from African-Americans. From Martin Luther King to Reverend Jesse Jackson, from Al Sharpton to Colin Powell. Preaching, rousing rhetoric, the ability to bring an audience to its feet - these are all distinguishing features of the African American religious scene and more generally, it's that emotional power to unite that Americans need right now to come together and solve their problems.
A lot of Americans felt good about themselves when they elected Barack Obama in 2008. It was a sign of how far the country had come, A few short decades ago, Obama would not have had the vote in a huge swathe of the country. Then he became the leader of the world's more powerful nation. Conservatives didn't quite share in the feel good factor. But with a conservative African American in the White House, there'd be that extra unifying element.
It's not going to happen over the next 4 years but Republicans are already talking about how the USA is changing. Minorities are driving the agenda so much more. White establishment males hold less and less appeal. There's that huge bloc of conservative voters that the GOP has tended to ignore. Perhaps, its future lies in seeking to reconnect with that section of society for which it once held such affinity: the African Americans?
1. Blacks as Conservative as Republicans on Some Moral Issues
2. Report Finds that African Americans More Conservative than Liberal | African, Conservative, Americans