Conservatives must remember core principles on race

Once again, race politics has become part of a Virginia campaign.

Earlier this election cycle, candidate for lieutenant governor, Susan Stimpson appeared on The John Fredericks Show where she faced what I can only call an antagonistic interview – at least compared to the love fest that occurred the day before with a different candidate.

I happened to hear both interviews live when they happened just before the Republican Advance in November.

Stimpson faced serious and difficult questioning from Fredericks, some of which was about the GOP and its outreach into minority communities – a valid question given the once-again poor showing of Republicans in the November election. And not an unexpected one, given that Fredericks wrote an op-ed on it here for Bearing Drift.

For conservatives – this question of minority outreach, despite recent setbacks, should be our bread and butter.

Despite recent verbal stumbles, I still maintain that the GOP is the party of Lincoln, the party that ensured the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, and a party that has advocated racial equality, particularly on an individual’s merit and capability since its inception – quite the contrary to the divisive and subjugating policies of the Democratic Party (including today).

However, Stimpson, for whatever reason, swung and missed at this fastball down the middle.

Coby Dillard of Virginia Black Conservatives heard it for the first time recently and is incensed. Here’s the quote that bothers Dillard:

Fredericks: Let’s say…you’re campaigning in some of the urban areas. How would you be able to inspire blacks to vote for Susan Stimpson; what would be your message?

Stimpson: Well, that wouldn’t be a set community that I would try to inspire….

Ouch.

That’s a full-fledged, four-alarm gaffe. You can’t sugar coat it. And I won’t. And I am definitely not writing this post as an apology for it.

That said, after some banter and back and forth, I recall Stimpson finally getting around to stating the obvious: that she would campaign for every vote, taking nothing for granted, and work to serve everyone in Virginia equally, working for a prosperous community and a growing economy…or something to that effect.

Of course, when I heard her comments back in November, I was quite aware she already flubbed the question and the interview. But I was less concerned with Stimpson – and I still am. I recall exhaling and wondering why certain Republicans have such a hard time with racial politics when, in reality, it’s so simple from a conservative perspective: we simply believe in the Golden Rule. How hard is it to articulate that?

Dillard, in what is clearly anger, has issued Stimpson an ultimatum:

It’s Wednesday evening. You’ve got until tomorrow at noon before the audio clip starts going out to black newspapers across the state, as well as anyone else who might want a copy.

Because they deserve to hear, in your own words, exactly how you feel…and we, as black conservatives, need to know exactly how you expect us to support you when you make ignorant remarks like this. Based strictly on what was said here, you don’t deserve a benefit of the doubt….but in fairness, I’m going to give you one.

I can understand why Dillard is upset, but I do think he also needs to take a step back and think about the bigger picture.

First of all, he needs to think about who is breaking this story. My understanding is that it has appeared publicly for the first time on the liberal blog, Not Larry Sabato. NLS is the same Web site that broke the story of Allen’s misstep in 2006. NLS loves attempting to portray Republicans as xenophobic bigots and will go to great lengths in his efforts to do so.

Second, Dillard wants blacks to be treated as equals among men – rightfully so. As a conservative I know he believes in distancing ourselves from the politics of division and segregation. However, is getting irate at a conservative who clearly made a gaffe and then further fanning the flames of the story with a public ultimatum going to promote racial equality or continue to divide us?

In the end, this incident is not about Susan Stimpson, Coby Dillard, or anyone else: it’s about conservatives needing to get comfortable talking about race and what’s most important about it: that we all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, created equal under God.

It’s well past time to stop walking on egg-shells on race and for conservatives to say what they mean, conveying a message of love for your neighbor and a vision where all are treated with dignity and respect, pursuing the dream of prosperity in America.

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