My grandfather voted Republican for a good portion of his life. Largely, because Lincoln freed the slaves, or at least that’s how it was told to me. I imagine it had a lot to do with his experience with southern Democrats for most of his life. They were pro slavery, pro Jim Crow, and anti practically anything that had to do with full citizenship for black people.
So I imagine the choice was pretty easy for quite a while.
Conventional wisdom has it that the Civil Rights movement changed all that. Essentially the progressive planks of the Democratic platform – and LBJ’s signing of the Civil Rights Act – sent southern Democrats, the “Dixiecrats”, into the welcoming arms of the Grand Old Party. Which says a couple of things to me. One: Race (at least in this case) trumps party affiliation. Two: In politics, winning trumps everything.
Either way, it took a lot of coaxing and cajoling to get my grandfather to change his party affiliation, even after his party changed their racial affiliation. Loyalty trumped everything for that old man.
I wonder how my grandfather would feel about Herman Cain. A friend commented to me once that she could not see how a black person could support the Republican party. I flinched a little, recalling my grandfather’s history, and kept my own council.
I’ve always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least upon first glance. This is something my mother taught me. Something she learned from my grandfather. But I don’t think the old man would be too impressed with Cain after hearing him speak for a while. I think he’d see the hypocrisy of a man claiming to be a victim of the Race card while dealing it or in a black man promising to exclude members of a minority group from his (hypothetical) cabinet because of the behavior of a few within that group. I think he’d be struck by the irony of a true carpetbagger as standard bearer for the very people who historically exploited fears for the majority with the image after Reconstruction [exhibit A: BIRTH OF A NATION]. I think my grandfather would be put off the claim, put forth by Cain, that black people who don’t support the GOP “can’t think for themselves.”
I don’t know my grandfather’s voting record after breaking his solid streak with the GOP. I do know that he voted, rain or shine, whenever the polls were opened. I wish he could see what’s become of his once beloved, GOP. I wonder if he’d count it as progress.