A black Republican dream deferred — again
Clarence Page, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board/Chicago Tribune
Rep. Mia Love was a rising star in Republican Party ranks until she wasn’t.
Even before the America-born daughter of Haitian immigrants was elected to Congress in 2014, she was given a prime speaking spot at the 2012 Republican National Convention.There she raised the sort of excitement in the Grand Old Party’s conservative ranks that Rep.-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York has awakened in the Democrats’ left wing section.
Even I, as an African-American who is old enough to remember when both parties competed vigorously for black votes, felt encouraged to see Republicans applaud a woman of color in the Obama era, countering the Party of Lincoln’s image as a bastion of white male power in the era of President Barack Obama.
She won Utah’s 4th Congressional District by 7,000 votes in 2014 and was re-elected by 54 percent of the voters in 2016.But her rising star seemed to fizzle this past Monday. After two weeks of vote counting, Love conceded to her Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, who finished ahead by about 700 votes, less than 1 percent of the total.
Even that paper-thin victory was a surprise in a district where fewer than 15 percent of the voters are registered Democrats.But a bigger surprise came during Love’s otherwise gracious concession speech. She went off on President Donald Trump, who mocked her in his first post-midterms news conference for losing, even before the final vote was tallied.“Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost,” Trump said. “Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”
Trump called out Love and several other Republicans who had lost their political bids after failing to accept his invitation to be invited to come out and give what he called his public “embrace” in their campaigns.
Now that she had lost re-election, she said in her concession speech in Salt Lake City, she is free to speak her mind and she did, particularly about Trump.”The president’s behavior toward me made me wonder: What did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican,” Love questioned. “It was not really about asking him to do more, was it? Or was it something else? Well, Mr. President, we’ll have to chat about that.”
Actually, Trump had little to gain from his personal attacks except a little self-prescribed therapy after the drubbing his party took in losing control of the House. When Trump is confronted by stress-inducing realities, he sometimes stages surly and combative exchanges with reporters, if only to entertain his conservative base.
Love was not loving any of that.
“However, this gave me a clear vision of his world as it is,” she continued. “No real relationships, just convenient transactions. That is an insufficient way to implement sincere service and policy.”
That’s the basis of the Grand Old Party’s problem with minority voters, she said; “It’s transactional, it’s not personal.”
“You see, we feel like politicians claim they know what’s best for us from a safe distance, yet they’re never willing to take us home,” she said, “… and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they do take them home — or at least make them feel like they have a home.”
With that, she was describing an ideal of politics at its best: a process that responds to the voters’ needs in a way that makes all feel their voices are being heard.
Yet I wonder: Why did it take her so long to make her feelings known about Trump after voting with his agenda almost 96 percent of the time, according to an analysis by the web site FiveThirtyEight?
I am not alone.“She (Love) was silent for the most part during her entire time in the House,” Howard University political scientist Michael Fauntroy, author of “Republicans and the Black Vote,” told me after Love’s speech. “Now she wants to talk about decorum and all these kind of things, it just doesn’t sound impressive coming after the fact.”
Fauntroy sounded pessimistic about any growth in black Republican ranks as long as the party continues its Trumpian swing to the far right.
That was a major mission for Mia Love. Now she’s headed out the door. But she’s young. We may see her again on the national scene. Besides, there doesn’t appear to be a stampede rush of other young Republicans of color to take her place.