“Education is the civil rights issue of our era.” Believe it or not that quote did not come from the Obama campaign, but from Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney during a recent speech before a largely minority audience. Couple this statement with Romney’s visit to a West Philadelphia charter school in an African-American neighborhood and all roads are leading to the kind of campaign season outreach we’ve come to recognize during an election year.
But as Romney toured the Universal Bluford Charter School, speaking about the virtues of educational choice and reform, issues that are sure to resonate with African-Americans, his political opponents spoke out about their discontent with what appears to be the beginning of a full-on outreach effort.
Die-hard Obama supporter and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter lashed out at Romney for “suddenly finding his way to West Philadelphia.” Protesters screamed in outrage at the visit urging Romney to “Get out!” What’s all the animosity about and what was the objectionable offense?
I’ve covered a number of elections and I’m not so sure why people are so upset. If the desired goal is for African-Americans and other minorities to have a stake in both political parties, why not allow both parties to make an honest pitch? Why is it so offensive for a viable Republican candidate to do what he is supposed to do: visit the whole country and talk to all residents?
Black parents are beyond fed up with the education system and many are so desperate that they are willing to investigate any potential remedy that doesn’t mimic the failures of the past and present.
Education is fertile ground for Republicans to make inroads in the Black community and I think the reaction of some Democrats confirms that maybe they are on to something. Gov. Romney would have been negligent if he had not made the trip, especially since he hadn’t been there before. Perhaps this is only the beginning of what is to come this year.
The last election was close and this one will likely be the same. Now we are faced with a situation where a voting block of people thought to be in President Obama’s back pocket are being pursued by the Republican Party. When both parties are forced to incorporate the needs and concerns of African-Americans into their platforms, everyone wins. The parties are made stronger and more inclusive, and Black voters are no longer made to feel invisible and unwanted.
Ultimately, if this trend continues, the African-American vote will be viewed as a hot commodity to be courted and pursued. If Black voters fully realize the kind of leverage that they wield, Democrats and Republicans will be in hot pursuit. In other words, if they want you, make them come and get you but don’t push them away.
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