The Tavis Smiley Republican Forum: Can Republicans Appeal To Younger African Americans?

FNN students Jarrell Davis, Nina Graham and Darin Davis interviewed Mike Huckabee at the Tavis Smiley Republican Forum. After interviewing and listening to all the candidates, FNN staff unanimously endorsed Huckabee for Republican nominee.

On Thursday, Sept. 27th at 9:00pm, PBS aired the “Tavis Smiley All American Republican Presidential Forum,” an opportunity for the candidates to address the African American community. Tom Joyner, a morning radio talk show host, opened the show with a few remarks concerning racism, the Jena 6 and the Little Rock 9. Then he introduced Dr. Cornel West, a civil rights activist and professor from Princeton, who was present in the audience. After Mr. Joyner spoke, Mr. Smiley addressed the packed audience at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD and introduced the six Republican candidates who showed up. He was critical of the four major candidates not present, but left the topic alone after the forum started. The Republicans who did attend the Forum were: Former Arkansas Governor Tom Huckabee, Ambassador Alan Keyes (the only African American candidate), Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, Congressmen Ron Paul, Colorado Governor Tom Tancredo and California Senator Duncan Hunter. Each candidate expressed his apologies for the four candidates who do not show and stated that it was a disgrace to the Republican Party. This should say that the four major Republicans don’t care about African-American votes. Then, Panelists Ray Suarez, Cynthia Tucker, and Juan Williams along with Moderator Tavis Smiley questioned the Republican candidates on topics such as health, immigration and criminal justice.

DID BROWNBACK BRIBE VOTERS WITH WEAK PROMISES? During the forum, Senator Brownback spoke of opening an African American History Museum on the monument grounds in DC. If this does happen, it would be a good thing and I’d definitely will go and see the museum. But is that all he has to offer to curb racism?

HUCKABEE KNOWS THERE’S RACISM, BUT WHAT IS HE GOING TO DO ABOUT UNEMPLOYED BLACK GRADUATES? In my opinion Governor Huckabee was the realist among the Republican candidates and responded with the best answer when asked why the rate of unemployment for black college graduates is 33% higher than the rate of unemployment for white high school dropouts. Governor Huckabee stated, “There is racism in the country. People still look at the face and judge. There just isn’t an equal opportunity yet.” Governor Huckabee has a good point and I must say that though the racism of today doesn’t affect me personally, I strongly dislike the stereotypes that portray African Americans as lazy and untrustworthy. I believe the unemployment rate of blacks led to the use of unemployment checks and welfare for families.

ARE KEYES AND TANCREDO RIGHT WHEN THEY SAY WELFARE BREAKS FAMILIES? The question of welfare and whether or not it needs reform was brought up. Congressman Tancredo claimed that, “Welfare was seen as not being home,” as he spoke about broken families (usually without father figures). Hunter stated, “We reformed welfare and the employment rate went up,” speaking on the topic of employment, welfare and how to increase economic opportunities for African-Americans. Alan Keyes said that welfare “destroyed the black community,”  and pointed out that he believed the lack of father figures in families and higher rates of unemployment came about because with welfare families didn’t need to stay together. I agree that father figures need to be in children’s lives, but welfare hasn’t really destroyed the black community as Keyes put it. I believe that the black community is destroying itself with the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Based on their answers I wouldn’t vote for either of them.

CANDIDATE HUNTER WANTS MORE SECURITY ON OUR BORDERS, BUT WHY? When the topic of immigration was raised, the line, “secure the border” came up. One candidate pointed out that securing the border was only one solution, and that keeping out illegal immigrants would be pointless as they make up a large portion of the cheap labor force in the US. I agree with that statement because every time someone mentions the illegal immigrants they always say, “add more security.” But it doesn’t always work that way because every year even more immigrants get into the US to gain employment. If more employers “simply enforce the law,”as Senator Hunter stated, then immigrants wouldn’t have jobs here and then possibly fewer Americans would need public assistance. For example, hotels in the US hire immigrants to work on the hotel staff, which causes everyday American citizens to lose out on job opportunities. More importantly, US graduates are often beat out by cheap illegal labor (immigrants). If the laws were enforced, jobs with proper pay would go to more Americans instead of going to illegal workers for less than minimum wage.

AFRICAN AMERICAN CANDIDATE KEYES INSULTS DC VOTERS! DC voting rights was a topic that left many Washingtonians rather upset and feeling put out—especially when the only African America candidate, Alan Keyes stated that if the people in DC wanted voting rights they could move to Maryland and Virginia. Then he followed up by saying if people want voting rights, they could fold DC back into MD and VA. That statement is one of the most humorous things I have ever heard. Why should the District of Columbia be divided again when it has been the nation’s capitol for well over 200 years? Huckabee however gave the most appealing answers saying that DC should have voting rights for the reason of equality. The idea of amending the Constitution to give DC citizens voting rights was thrown around as well. Most of the candidates opposed the idea. Only a few such as Governor Huckabee had no problem with the idea. I wouldn’t vote for Allen Keyes based on the responses he gave.

TANCREDO WANTS TO SEE YOUR ID! Requiring picture IDs in order to vote received both yays and nays from the candidates. Tancredo said that asking for a photo ID wasn’t too much to ask. I personally am in favor of the ID as it helps keep illegal people from voting. Motor Voter IDs also helps ensure that unregistered aliens get caught.

IF I HAD TO VOTE FOR A REPUBLICAN, WHO WOULD IT BE? After listening to all the candidates, in my opinion Huckabee would most likely have my vote. Huckabee gave the best answers and showed the most support and enthusiasm to try and gain the African American vote and I would vote for him. I found Alan Keyes to be a joke throughout the forum and couldn’t see him as President. He seems to have a hard time abiding by time limits and his unusual pastor-like responses seem to show that because of his church-like nature he might not honor the separation of church and state law. If I had a chance (which I do right now) I suggest that African Americans don’t vote for the Republican candidates that didn’t show up to for the Forum (Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney) because they obviously don’t care about the African American vote.

The All American Tavis Smiley Forums for both the Democrats and Republicans are available on the PBS website in video format.