Dear Gov. Romney,
As a black American, I am deeply and personally insulted by the manner and substance of your recent efforts to win over African-American voters. Your patronizing NAACP speech (which ignored issues and attacked policies that we hold dear) and your new campaign ad (which deceptively excerpts clips from that speech) are emblematic of the condescending and dismissive treatment that the Republican Party continually demonstrates toward my people. Such treatment is the reason that you and most other GOP candidates hold no appeal to the masses of black folks in this country.
By dishonestly repackaging footage from your NAACP appearance, your recently-released campaign commercial falsely implies that your comments were warmly embraced by members of our nation's oldest and most respected civil rights organization. Of course, you know that the opposite is true. Your address to the NAACP national convention was a disaster. Your pronouncements were punctuated by visceral, loud and sustained booing from delegates outraged by your promise to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (which you deride as "Obamacare"), your claim that President Obama "cannot" and "will not" improve the jobs picture, and your boast that "If you want a president who will make things better in the African American community, you are looking at him." No amount of imaginative video editing or on-camera testimonials from black conservatives can hide the fact that your agenda and approach have alienated and incensed the majority of African-Americans.
"I will seek your counsel." That's what you told the NAACP delegates near the end of your speech. But, by that time you had already disproved that pledge with remarks alternately disregarding and assailing our expressed concerns. Notable was how you completely overlooked the issue of voter suppression, which was the central theme of the NAACP convention. Speakers including NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous and Vice-President of the United States Joe Biden spoke forcefully against Republican-backed voter identification laws which threaten to disenfranchise thousands of American citizens, including a great many African-Americans. But, standing beneath a banner bearing the convention title, "Your Power, Your Decision - VOTE," you, Gov. Romney, spoke for nearly 25 minutes without uttering a single word on this crucial matter. Is this how you seek our counsel?
You addressed other policy matters in a way that infuriated most black people. Going into the NAACP meeting you knew that President Obama's healthcare reform law is enormously popular among African-Americans because of its many benefits for working families. But you still vowed, rather callously, to eliminate the Affordable Care Act as an "expensive non-essential" program.
By ignoring and attacking the issues and policies which are close to our hearts, you showed quite clearly that you are not truly interested in seeking counsel from African-Americans. Your interest, rather, is to impose upon us a set of conservative ideas which we have declined repeatedly over the decades.
In speaking to the NAACP, you made the same rude error that so many conservative Republicans make with regard to black people: you talked at us, not to us. It is an old, familiar and infuriating pattern. Republicans lecture us about what is supposedly best for us and then, when we take a pass on your plans, they arrogantly accuse us of being close-minded. Or, worse yet, they imply that we simply do not understand how beneficial their program would be. Mr. Romney, you staked out that patronizing ground less than two minutes into your speech when you declared:
"I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president."
Were you suggesting that African-Americans do not support you because we don't realize that you have a good heart, and because we haven't allowed you to "fully communicate" your political agenda? Well, perhaps you are a good-hearted guy, but we're more interested in your policies. And policy is where we part company.
Gov. Romney, what we've got here is not a failure to communicate. You have "fully communicate(d) what (you) believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families." We hear you, we just disagree with you. Strongly. We understand your strategy: reduce taxes on rich people and big corporations, roll back regulations on businesses and banks, increase military spending, slash spending for domestic programs... That's the same basic platform that Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush touted. We didn't like the plan under those previous Republican presidents and we don't like it under your campaign.
Mr. Romney, black people haven't rejected your candidacy – or the Republican way in general -- because we don't understand you. You've been rejected by over 90% of us because we do understand you and most of us are not interested in buying what you're selling. We don't much care for the arrogance of your sales pitch, either. That's why you were booed by the NAACP and that's why you will get almost no black support on election day.
Cameron Turner, Altadena, CA