Monday, October 13, 2008

A New Need for Urban Conservatism by Akindele Akinyemi


Now that Sen. Obama is going to win the Presidency of the United States and here in Michigan we are about to face oblivion as Republicans the question is on the table...where do we go from here?

As urban conservatives, we are responsible for crafting an urban policy agenda that will make an impact on those people who live in the urban community. One of Obama's selling point is an urban policy agenda. One of Sen. McCain's selling point to the urban community is.....nothing. That is problematic.

However, I have never relied on the GOP to develop and push an urban agenda because most in the GOP have an "one size fits all" mentality. In other words, if it works here in the countryside it can work in the inner city.

Not true.

Urban conservatives are too caught up on the "urban agenda" and not the urban execution. What I mean is we can forge all the agendas we want but how often do we carry out those agendas? Black people (whether we call ourselves Democrats, Independents or Republicans) talk too much when it comes to planning. We enjoy having panel discussions at the local university and then leave out with nothing. We enjoy having dinner, hearing the guest of honor give a pep talk about Black America, eat our dry chicken and hard rolls, networking with people we hate and then going home with no plan.

There are several platforms that are floating around in the Black GOP space that we discuss but never execute.

I am not interested in developing a new platform for Black America. I am interested in movement. An agenda cannot work unless there is manpower pushing the agenda. A movement is what I am calling for. An urban conservative movement.

Obama has successfully created a movement called Change. Where is the urban conservative movement? There is none. This is why you find so many of us voting for Obama this November because Obama has succeeded in convincing urban conservatives who lean Republican to vote for him by exploiting the fact that a vote for McCain is a vote for four more years of President Bush. If we had a movement to counterattack the Obama movement this would have been a no-brainer.

In the past I have outlined Urban Regional Networks, Urban Conservatism and The Covenant for Detroit. What I am saying here is we do not have to reinvent the wheel. What we have to do is reinvent our MESSAGE.

The average urban conservative cannot mimic the same GOP message as our mainstream counterparts, especially when these same people will not come into urban areas such as Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint or Saginaw. Our message must be different and our approach to grassroots activism must be strategic.

For instance, I have never understood why Black Republicans beg for the RNC to give them money for grassroots support when Blacks generate over $800 billion annually as consumers? We cannot talk about our Black Democratic counterparts if we are not willing to try something different.

Here is another scenario. Look at the people running for Mayor in Detroit for the upcoming February elections.

State Rep. Coleman Young II
State Senator Samuel Buzz Thomas
State Rep. Shanelle Jackson
Mayor Ken Cockrel
Dave Bing
Freman Hendrix
Sharon McPhail
Kwame Kenyatta
Benny Napoleon
Warren Evans
Nicholas Hood III


NONE of these people will be able to bring Detroit from the financial abyss because their political and economic philosophy are the same. None of them are different from one another other than age, height, and educational attainment. Not one.

Urban conservatism, under the Covenant for Detroit platform, would work with a candidate that is not part of the established political machine in the city of Detroit that has decimated the city for decades. However, urban conservatism cannot work unless there is a change of direction philosophically to create a new direction of leadership.

Instead of creating new Black GOP organizations that are doing the same as the ones before urban conservatives must develop think tanks to develop the most comprehensive urban plan that separates them from their liberal counterparts. The only way we are going to do this is to actually discipline ourselves to study, research, and develop platforms that will lead to an urban conservative movement. This can only be done with the right people in place.

One part of urban conservatism that I often discuss with my colleagues is the need for financial literacy. It is part of a larger movement called the silver rights movement. John Hope Bryant, the founder and CEO of Operation HOPE says this often.

"Financial literacy and the silver rights movement is to freedom today, in a knowledge economy and an economic era, what the right to vote was to the democracy era and the civil rights movement."

He is absolutely correct. There is no reason why cities in Michigan such as Inkster and Benton Harbor do not have a grocery store or credit union. You cannot build economic power if the population is functionally illiterate.

Urban conservatism is also not a domestic movement but an international movement. It is imperative that we reach out to Africa and invest. If China and other countries are doing this we should participate in the same function. The African Diaspora is key to connecting us with the rest of the modern world.

In fact, urban conservatism should accept the fact that we are first and foremost global citizens. In theory, our national interests follow our global inter-connectiveness and global inter-dependence. While doing this we must be about the business re-frame problems as opportunities, and "re-imagine the world" as we would like to see it. Oftentimes, Black Republicans do not do this because we are taking something from a platform and keeping the division alive within our own community.

A real urban conservative is uncomfortable in our decision-making. We must understand that leadership is often not a popularity contest and necessary change often requires leaders to get out of their comfort zones. This process requires us to positively and regularly challenge our own belief system.

Urban conservatives have to become a change agent when developing a comprehensive platform that will carry our people for the next 20-30 years. In order for us to do that we have to be able to serve others, whether in business, politics, public service, community service or the arts. There is not way we can exemplify true leadership unless we are able to serve others.

We can develop all the platforms we want but if we are not willing to change our philosophical approach to solving problems within our own community then all we are doing is spinning our wheels.

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