You know what? That sounds like an interesting speech that Newt Gingrich gave the Maryland Republican party last night.
“No administration in modern times has failed younger blacks more than the Obama administration,” Gingrich said. He explained that “in May, we had 41 percent unemployment among black teenagers in America.”
That means if Republicans can put on a brave face, they might be able to turn the African American vote their way. “Think of the social catastrophe of 41 percent of a community not being able to find a job. But we have to have the courage to walk into that neighborhood, to talk to that preacher, to visit that small business, to talk to that mother. And we have to have a convincing case that we actually know how to create jobs.”
“The morning they believe that, you’re going to see margins in percents you never dreamed of decide there’s a better future,” Gingrich said. “It takes courage, it takes hard work, it takes discipline and it’s doable.
“I will bet you there is not a single precinct in this state in which the majority will pick for their children food stamps over paychecks,” he said.
As so often with Gingrich, what is true and right is fused to what is absurd and false. It’s true, this recession has wreaked social havoc on poorer Americans. The Center for Immigration Studies tallied some numbers in their most recent release:
- In the first quarter of 2011, the standard unemployment rate (referred to as U-3) for U.S.-born workers who have not completed high school was 22 percent.
- Using the broader measure of unemployment (referred to as U-6), that includes those who want to work but have not looked in the last four weeks and those forced to work part-time, the rate for U.S.-born workers who have not completed high school was 34.6 percent.
- The U-6 unemployment rate for U.S.-born workers who have only a high school education, but no additional schooling, is 21.5 percent. The situation for younger workers with only a high school education is even worse.
- Looking at all less-educated U.S.-born adults (ages 18 to 65), 26.9 million were not working in the first quarter of 2011. Less-educated is defined as having either failed to complete high school or having only a high school education. If we include all less-educated adult citizens, both U.S.-born and naturalized, 28.7 million were not working in the first quarter of 2011.
- The above figures do not include the 7.2 million American teenagers (16-17) not working. It also does not include the 17.1 million working-age citizens with some college, but not a bachelor’s degree, who are not working.
We are living through the longest period of extended unemployment since World War II. This unemployment is occurring in a society without very much of a social safety net for working age people. The result is a social catastrophe.
So far, Newt Gingrich is making sense. He’s making sense too when he asserts that the social catastrophe creates a political opportunity for a party that can bring forward practical ideas to revive economic growth.
But here’s where he stops making sense: Conservatives cannot recognize — or refuse to acknowledge — that non-conservatives do not share their disdain for President Obama and are therefore unlikely to be impressed by overstated criticisms.
Non-Republicans do not agree that Obama “made it worse.” They agree that Obama “failed to make it better.” That may seem like a small difference, but it’s a hugely important one.
Some practical implications from these findings:
- Rush Limbaugh may speak of the Bush years as the good old days, but that is a highly unusual and unaccepted point of view. Republicans remain a party of economic failure in most voters eyes. Voters may be dissatisfied with Obama’s effectiveness, but they will only reject him if they are offered a superior alternative. For now, the GOP alternative remains even worse than the Obama status quo.
- Given that minority voters in particular do not blame Obama for the bad economy – in fact, continue to respect and admire him – the mood of raging Republican contempt for the president almost guarantees that we will speak about him in ways that deny us any audience for our policy message.
- That is, assuming we had a policy message calculated to appeal to them. But even if the door were open, how would a platform of tighter money, big benefit cuts, and upper-income tax cuts appeal to hard-pressed voters, African-Americans being some of the hardest-pressed of all?