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Tuesday, December 14, 2010     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Liberals not celebrating minority candidates' leading role in 2010 conservative revolution

By Grace Vuoto

The 2010 midterm elections resulted in the victories of more conservative minority candidates than ever before. We have much to celebrate.


The American Dream consists of the notion that anyone — regardless of their origin or ethnicity — can rise to the highest levels of wealth and power. Yet, in practice, in the American political system, minorities and women have generally accepted the notion that they need legal and financial assistance — some kind of leveling of the playing field — to pursue the American Dream. Hence, our politics have been polarized: the majority of blacks, Hispanics and women have voted, by and large, for Democrats, whereas whites have swung among the two parties.

This polarization has allowed the left to tarnish conservative values — to impugn that the values themselves are deficient and somehow in the service of “the white man” or “the wealthy elite.” The GOP has tried, by fits and starts, to convince blacks, Hispanics and women that conservative values are universal — applicable to all regardless of race or gender. In fact, conservatives maintain assuming these values are essential to being successful in the pursuit of the American Dream.

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This argument has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears — until recently. In the last two years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of minority leaders who uphold conservative values. These leaders are the movement’s best hope for changing the pernicious polarization of our politics.

In 2008, the Democratic Party had a high-profile black, then-Senator Barack Obama, and a high-profile female, then-Senator Hillary Clinton, battling for the nomination in a nail-biting contest. The nomination battle was groundbreaking — and all the more since whoever won, it would be a first for the Democrats. Yet, the GOP appeared trapped in another decade, with the leadership fight being waged exclusively among white males.

Senator John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee, recognized the importance of changing the GOP image. By choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, he shattered the long-standing conservative leadership paradigm. Conservative principles can and should be embraced by both genders and all races — this was the implicit message sent to a new generation.

Shortly thereafter, in November 2008, the principled and charismatic Hispanic conservative, Luis Fortuno, was elected as governor of Puerto Rico — without watering down cardinal conservative principles. And a black conservative, Michael Steele, became chairman of the Republican National Committee in January 2009. He appeared regularly on Fox News, touting conservative ideas.

Suddenly, Mrs. Palin, Mr. Fortuno and Mr. Steele were in highly visible positions, regularly defending traditional American values. As a result, almost overnight, a conservative minority leadership explosion began.

In 2010, conservative females made headlines across the nation. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stood up to the federal government on immigration. Former corporate executives such as Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman ran for office in liberal California. And Sharron Angle took on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. That these women failed to win a seat is less important than that they ran: They established a precedent for future campaigns.

Though some conservative females were defeated, others sailed to victory. A record number of conservative women ran for office; 11 have been elected to Congress, bringing the total to 24. Also, Nikki Hayley became the first female governor of South Carolina and the state’s first Indian-American governor. She is the second Indian-American governor in the country, following Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal who was elected in 2007.

In addition, Hispanic conservatives roared to victory. Marco Rubio was elected to represent Florida in the Senate. And another Hispanic conservative, Rick Scott, became governor of Florida. Hispanic female Susana Martinez became governor of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval became governor of Nevada. Now, there are a plethora of Hispanic leaders of both genders that represent conservatism.

Yet the most dramatic and most promising victory for traditional values in America came with the election of two black conservatives to the House of Representatives. Tim Scott of South Carolina and retired Lt. Col. Allen West of Florida became the first Republican blacks elected in the South since Reconstruction.

Moreover, they will be the only black conservatives in Congress since Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts resigned his seat in 2003. Both Mr. Scott and Mr. West were joined by a record-number of black conservatives seeking office: 40 in the primaries, out of which 15 candidates participated in the general election. It will be almost impossible to argue that a black conservative is an “Uncle Tom” in light of this number of black conservatives seeking office.

The most venomous tirades against conservative values have come from race-peddlers such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. The election of conservative blacks will act as an antidote. Both Mr. Scott and Mr. West stand as an example that it is possible to be black and to be conservative — and to be embraced by the electorate. How “inherently racist” is America if we elect blacks as our leaders? How “inherently racist” are conservative values if these values are championed by blacks, too?

The 2010 midterms were therefore one of the most consequential elections of the last few decades. I would argue it is even more important than the election of the nation’s first black president in 2008. For at last, we can detect the beginning of a new era wherein American politics — and one day our political parties — will not be divided according to race and gender, but exclusively according to the issues. At last, the message that the next generation will receive — in stark and visible fashion — is that one can indeed embrace conservative values and still be a model for one’s ethnic heritage, as well as all Americans. The phrase “black conservative” is as important in overcoming the legacy of slavery as was “black and proud” in the 1970s.

Conservative leaders still fail to garner the majority of the black, Hispanic and female vote. In this election, blacks voted for Democrats at the usual rate of 90 percent, Hispanics chose Democrats at a rate of 60 percent and women voted for Democrats by a slim margin, 49 percent to 48 percent, according to exit polls by the American Enterprise Institute. There is indeed much work to do — and it is all the more important as the nation’s demographics change. There are currently four minority-majority states — that is, where the minority population is more than 50 percent: Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas. In 2050, America will be a minority-majority nation. Hence, we must be relentless in spreading conservative values as the country’s demographics change. Nonetheless, in the election of 2010, we have paved the way for the representation of these values by both genders and a variety of races.

This is a great American triumph. Let us rejoice.

Dr. Grace Vuoto is the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.

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