Last week the Democratic Party held its national
convention in Denver, Colorado, and nominated Senator Barack Obama, who hopes
to become the United States’ first black president. A record number of African-American
delegates – more than 1,000 – were at the event. By contrast, only about 40
black delegates attended this week’s Republican convention in St. Paul,
Minnesota. Nevertheless, the Republicans continue to say a significant number
of African-Americans support their presidential nominee, John McCain. VOA’s
Darren Taylor has spoken with one black Republican, who talks about making a
choice between his conservative values and a chance to help make history.
“I have worked on Republican governors’ campaigns, and
those of senators, congressmen, and four presidential campaigns. I have
relationships in the (President George W. Bush) administration, and
relationships with top Republicans dating back to the (President Richard Nixon)
administration,” says Raynard Jackson, the CEO of a government relations and
political consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
Jackson helps American politicians with strategies
to reach minority communities and works with presidents from various African
countries to improve their relations with U.S. government branches and the
business community. His website describes him as “one of the most sought after conservative speakers in
America.” He’s appeared regularly on U.S. radio and television shows, such as
CNN’s Larry King Live, and has written opinion pieces for newspapers,
including The Washington Times and The Washington Post.
“Our family in St. Louis, Missouri, supported the
Republicans,” he says. He explains that the Jacksons were attracted to the
Republican Party because of its emphasis on Christian principles, individual
responsibility, education and discipline.
went to church; if we misbehaved as children, we were punished. We were taught
to respect authority. This is just the way I grew up.”
In comparison, says Jackson, the “more secular” Democrats
seemed “soft; lax; too liberal.” In addition, the Jacksons, like most
Republicans, were vociferously pro-life and didn’t agree with the Democratic
position that women in certain instances should be permitted to have abortions.
Jackson says he was always “put off” by the Democrat’s
insistence on a “larger government role in all spheres of life, creating a
welfare state by providing too many benefits and services to people. I believed
that people must work to get ahead, not get government hand-outs,” he says.
According to Jackson, his support for the Republican Party
was based on citizens having the opportunity to make money, with “little
interference” from the state. “Government shouldn’t be permitted to regulate me
in a way that forces me to provide certain employee benefits; I must be able to
decide these for myself,” he says.
Jackson expresses support for the Republican mantra of “less
government spending" and emphasis on the "individual rather than the collective, and
He comments, “(As the owner of a large business) I don’t
like paying taxes. I pay what I’m obligated to, but I don’t want the government
to constantly take more and more money out of my pocket.”
Jackson says he’s disappointed that the party he’s supported for two decades
seems to have abandoned what he terms “one of the true tenets of American
“Under (Republican president) George (W.) Bush, federal
spending has increased more than under (Democratic former president) Bill
Clinton…. So the Republican Party, really, under Bush is not a (true)
also not happy with the Republican claim that increasing numbers of
African-Americans are backing the party. Jackson says black support for the
Republicans is actually waning, despite the fact that Mr. Bush assembled the
“most racially diverse administration in history” – with such black officials
as (former) Secretary of State Colin Powell – and that many African-Americans,
such as himself, support traditional Republican values.
“Blacks have consistently proved to be the most
conservative group of people in the United States of America…. Poll after poll
has shown that the black community is the biggest group in the country that’s,
for example, pro-life (anti-abortion) and anti-homosexuality,” Jackson says.
The Bush administration says it’s dedicated to improving
the lives of Americans of all ethnic groups. It points out that it’s giving federal aid to black
churches to provide health care to the poor, for example, and to counsel
against gang violence, drug abuse, divorce and teen pregnancy. However, Jackson maintains his party has done little in
recent years to suggest that it’s committed to improving the lives of poor
He acknowledges that his party is haunted by events
in New Orleans in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina killed about 1,800 people, mainly blacks. The Bush
administration was accused of doing little to help them, a charge it denies.
The government also points to the precautions it took following the Katrina
tragedy as the reasons why Hurricane Gustav, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast
this week, didn’t wreak as much death and destruction as expected.
also expressed disappointment in McCain’s choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin
as his vice-presidential running mate. He says there are far better candidates
within the Republican Party.
argument is that (Palin) has more executive experience than (Democratic
vice-presidential nominee) Joe Biden and Barack Obama because she’s been a
mayor and a governor. Well, if you’re going to make that argument, then she has
more executive experience than John McCain as well.”
is aware that some black Republicans have suggested that Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, an African-American, would have been a better pick that
Palin. But he’s not one of them. “I can’t think of any one person who could
really help this ticket. The Republican brand is (that) damaged.”
Republicans, though, insist there’s nothing wrong with
their party and say it offers the best policies for all Americans, including
blacks. But Jackson is adamant: “For
the record, despite being Republican, I voted for Obama during the primary and,
unless he gives me a reason not to, will vote for him during the general
This is despite the fact that Jackson
says he disagrees with “up to 70 per cent” of Obama’s policies. How does he explain what many would see as his political betrayal, given his
continued support for many Republican policies?
He says, “Every
so often in life, there’s an opportunity for you to do something that’s going
to transform your community, your society and possibly the world…. The
opportunity for a black to become president of the United States far supersedes
ideology…. I will not be on the wrong side of history, nor will I stand in the
way of the doors of history opening because of my party affiliation.”
quick to add that he has “a lot of black friends” in the Republican Party who
are not only supporting McCain, but are “viciously attacking” Obama. Jackson
wants to make it clear, though, that he’ll cast his vote in November with the
aim of “helping to change history, not necessarily for Obama the politician.”
he acknowledges it would be “great to have a black face” at significant
international gatherings in the future, like the G8 group of powerful
Obama is sitting at the table, at least you get a more diverse viewpoint on a
lot of foreign policy issues…. He will bring a different perspective just
because he’s black and he comes from a different experience. He becomes our
Nelson Mandela, [who] can possibly alter the political landscape of the world
just by virtue of his presence.”
is, however, concerned that an Obama administration will “erode” some of the
conservative principles that he’s always believed in, but he’s convinced that
“at this point in time the benefits of his election” will counteract the
willing to hold my tongue and to hold my nose on some of the policy positions
he might undertake…. If I have to trade off some policy differences for that
type of change, then I’m willing to do that.”
denies that his switch from Republican to the Obama camp is designed to curry
favor from the Democrats and thus with members of a possible Obama
administration. His company does, after all, receive a significant portion of
its income from government work....
happens if the election goes the other way?” he asks. “Where will my views
leave me if John McCain wins?”
this particular election, Jackson maintains, he’s a black person first and a
conservative second. And he’s not bothered at all by critics who say most
African-Americans will support Obama simply because of the Democratic nominee’s
same people who make that argument don’t make the same argument that a lot of
white folks will vote for John McCain (just) because he’s white,” he notes.
convinced that the Republicans don’t have many reasons to be optimistic at the
moment. But the latest polls show Obama and McCain running neck and neck in
terms of popularity. Some pollsters indicate that, in the end, McCain may not
need black support in order to become the next American president.