No matter what Mitt Romney tells NAACP members Wednesday, nine out of 10 African Americans will still pull the lever for President Barack Obama in November.
But that doesn’t mean the former Massachusetts governor’s address to the venerable civil rights organization at its 103rd annual convention in Houston isn’t a big deal.
In another era, black folks were loyal Republican voters. Barrier breaker Jackie Robinson was a Republican, and former NAACP President Benjamin Hooks was an appointee in the Reagan administration. This time, though, Romney is an ambassador to black America from a party that has, over time, all but cut diplomatic ties with the black community.
If all he can muster is the standard refrain that Republicans are “the party of Lincoln” without addressing the question that black voters, and all voters, ask — “What have you done for me lately?” — his speech might turn out to be a concession of the black vote to the Democratic Party for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, if Romney can find a message that resonates with a slice of the black electorate, it could be a step toward a rapprochement between black voters and the GOP.