Newly elected Black republican members of Congress should not feel obligated to join the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). I do, however, think they should join the CBC to diversify the ideas offered by the group. Representative-Elect Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Black republican, has declined to join the group. While I understand that he is committed to themes that unite us regardless of our race, he is missing a golden opportunity to have republican ideas and ideals gain more exposure in the Black community. If Black republicans are really serious about bringing more Black people into the Republican Party, then they are going to have to join the most identifiably Black presence in Washington, D.C.—the CBC. I’m not questioning Representative-Elect Tim Scott’s passion for ameliorating the lives of Black people, but I am asserting that he is hurting his party by not recognizing his potential to recruit more Blacks into the Republican Party by joining the CBC. Representative-Elect Allen West of Florida, a Black republican, has decided to join the CBC. He is looking forward to challenging the ideas and policies of the members of the CBC. In the end, Allen West will be the more visible and more valuable person for the Republican Party’s efforts to recruit more Black voters.
It would not surprise me to see these two men, especially Allen West, become very prominent members in the Republican Party. They may even be successful one day in gaining the Republican Party’s nomination to become President. With the Republican Party increasingly becoming a more conservative party, these Black men have arrived at the right time to gain prominence in the party. They are both very fiscally and socially conservative. Although I want these two Black men to be successful members of the Republican Party, I don’t ever want them to forget that they are Black. I don’t ever want them to feel like they have to surrender their “blackness” to appease any member of the Republican Party. I am not saying that there are currently people in the Republican Party who will attempt to make them relinquish their blackness, but I just hope that if any people like this surface they will strongly resist their efforts.
Even though many Black democrats and liberals will not like these men simply because they are conservatives and republicans, I greatly encourage them to give these men a fair chance. You should wait until they gain a voting record before negatively criticizing them. I also encourage you to wait until they write, co-sponsor, and/or support legislation (as members of Congress) that you oppose before negatively criticizing them.
I hope that Tim Scott and Allen West will not feel like they have to be the chief attack dogs on President Obama simply because they are Black. If they feel passionate about criticizing President Obama, and this criticism genuinely comes from their deepest convictions, then I think they should vociferously promulgate their disagreements with him.
I congratulate Tim Scott and Allen West on their recent election victories to become two new Black members of Congress.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison