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GOP Wooing Black Church and the Black Contract for America

I just saw this today from an LA Times article. It covers the GOP courtship of culturally conservative Black Church leadership.

As I've posted before, the search for a politically progressive Christian community needs to start with finding and supporting the progressive Black Church leaders. The Black community including the Black church has voted for the Democrats by about 90% in the last seven presidential elections.

My sense is that the Black community as a whole -- and the Church leadership in particular -- view the Democratic party as largely MIA, only showing up every 4 years three weeks before the Presidential election and then vanishing.

Politically, if Democrats don't elevate and deeply value and learn from this community -- and do so with a Democratic message that ties well to a prophetic and moral voice -- the GOP will.

Note the comment that "at the end of the month, the Heritage Foundation will cosponsor a gathering of black conservatives in Washington designed to counter dominance of the 'America-hating black liberal leadership' and to focus African American voters on moral issues."

Also of note in this article is a "Contract for Black America and Values" that will be announced. When this is online I'll post it in a follow up.

Here are excerpts:

"Black conservatives who supported President Bush in 2004 and gained new prominence within the Republican Party are launching a loosely knit movement that they hope will transform the role African Americans play in national politics.

The effort will be visible today at the Crenshaw Christian Center, one of Los Angeles' biggest black churches, headed by televangelist Frederick K.C. Price. More than 100 African American ministers are to gather in the first of several regional summits to build support for banning same-sex marriage — a signature issue that drew socially conservative blacks to the Republican column last year.

Before the meeting, one prominent minister plans to unveil a "Black Contract With America on Moral Values," a call for Bible-based action by government and churches to promote conservative priorities. It is patterned loosely on the "Contract With America" that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used 10 years ago to inaugurate an era of GOP dominance in Congress.

If the small shift in black voter support is thrilling to GOP leaders in Washington, it is scary to the country's most senior black elected leaders, who long have found their home in the Democratic Party.

Owens suggested that one way the Democratic Party could fight back would be to renew its commitment to investing in poor black neighborhoods. He lamented that "we don't have leaders like Lyndon Johnson, who understood the dynamics of building power, building it through your base."

Rather, he said, that lesson has been learned by Republicans like Gingrich and Rove.

Failure to respond to the GOP investment in black communities, he said, could allow Republicans to add five percentage points to the 11% they received among African American voters nationwide in 2004.

Republican officials, such as outgoing party chairman Ed Gillespie, have said they think the percentage could rise to 30 in the next presidential election — a prediction that even some GOP strategists called overly optimistic.

Even if it rises 5 percentage points, Owens said, "the Democratic Party will be paralyzed."

Owens said the GOP strategy of courting church leadership was on target. "The churches are the last institutions alive and breathing in some of these neighborhoods, and people look to them for leadership," he said.

The Bush administration has found entree to church leaders through its faith-based initiative, which is providing them with federal aid to fight social problems such as drug abuse, prison recidivism, divorce and teen pregnancy.

To counter the Republicans, Owens was preparing legislation that would send billions to impoverished neighborhoods through programs that he said would be more accountable than Bush's faith-based program.

All of the upcoming national and regional meetings of black conservatives emphasize a "moral values" agenda.

The organizer of the Heritage Foundation meeting, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of Los Angeles, said that his session would emphasize the need for black families to reject the notion that racism caused family and economic ills and begin taking personal responsibility. He favors the Republican emphasis on traditional marriage, school vouchers and reduced reliance on government. And, he said, he sees a palpable shift in attitudes.

"I saw black preachers turning toward the Republicans in greater numbers this election. I don't know if it's because they believe in it or they want some of the faith-based money. Whatever the reason, they are turning; and as a result of the preachers leaving, many of the congregations are following."
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