Losing the Uncle Tom Vote
It's very simple. Bush and Rove have played fast and loose with the First Amendment prohibition about church and state, and spread a lot of cash around faith communities. Having met some of the "leaders" in the religious communities of color, I can tell you that many are truly unimpressive and self-motivated. There are plenty of black and Latino ministers willing to tout the Republican party line at the pulpit, just as white pastors do. Kuo's book describes what that's really all about, but the good news is that it's not working anymore:
Black, Hispanic Conservatives Bailing Out of GOP
In his L.A. Times article "Latino and Black Voters Reassessing Ties to GOP," Peter Wallsten reports on the exodus of African American and Hispanic conservative voters from the G.O.P. According to Wallsten, a growing number of leaders in both constituencies have articulated a sense of being taken for granted by Republican leaders. With respect to African American conservatives:
Complaints among black pastors who had been courted by the White House â€” while less pronounced than those of Latino leaders â€” have been fueled by a tell-all book by former White House aide David Kuo. The new book says that Bush, referring to pastors from one major African American denomination, once griped: "Money. All these guys care about is money. They want money."
...The Rev. Eugene Rivers, a Boston Pentecostal minister and one of about two dozen black clergy invited to a series of White House meetings with Bush, said Friday that black leaders had been wooed with assurances that their social service groups would receive money from the president's faith-based initiative. But, Rivers said, the bulk of the money had gone to white organizations, leaving black churches on the sidelines.
The GOP's rift is also widening with Latino conservatives, who are disturbed by the Republicans' mixed messages on immigration and who share the Black conservatives' concern about the GOP's ethics problems and the Foley cover-up:
A survey released this month by the Latino Coalition found Latino registered voters supporting Democrats over Republicans 56% to 19% in congressional elections. "If Republicans nationally get 25% of the Hispanic vote, it would be a miracle," said Robert de Posada, the coalition president...
The Latino backlash has grown so intense that one prominent, typically pro-Republican organization, the Latino Coalition, has endorsed Democrats in competitive races this year in Tennessee, Nebraska and New Jersey....The Latino Coalition, for example, has endorsed the presumed Democratic presidential front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), in her reelection bid this year.
The aforementioned Kuo book, "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction," has alienated white conservatives as well, with its depiction of top White House aides "embracing religious conservatives in public while calling them "nuts" behind their backs."
I don't blame poor blacks and Latinos for falling for the "moral values will solve all your problems" line any more than I blame poor whites; that's a trick that's worked for thousands of years and will keep on working so long as only some in our society get solid, critical educations. But I do blame those religious leaders of color for being both greedy and stupid, and I'm glad their flocks are proving to be smarter than they. A shiny new "prayer center" or one or two additional salaries for "faith based substance abuse services" can't compete with the barrage of racist messages coming down the Rovian pike for the last six years.
I can only hope that the crisis of politically minded faith in these populations becomes a lasting change, and helps communities of color find the motivation to reform their religious organizations back into the serious entities for social change they once were. The recent pro-immigrant activities in Catholic communities gives me hope, although I confess that working with religious leaders while in Divinity school never did. Too many prominent black and Latino pastors and priests are little better than showmen and salesmen, happy to rest on one or two tenuous associations with a long dead Civil rights past. The corruption, hypocrisy and depravity of many leaders would be shocking, if I didn't know so much about what kind of people are attracted to "ministering" to the poor.