This morning, my local news station reported about an effort to draw black voters into the Republican party by a conservative group, Raging Elephants, (“dedicated to conservatism-libertarianism”) led by Apostle Claver Kamau-Imani in East Austin TX.
Claver is trying a new approach to persuade black voters to join the Republican Party through flashy billboards and advertising. In 2008, he attempted to persuade blacks to vote conservative in this ad that says if you don’t want government telling you what to do, you’re a conservative and you should vote that way. On further perusal of his website, what Claver doesn’t say in that ad is that his group promotes the same kind of extreme conservative ideology put forth by the Tea Party and other extreme rightwing groups, including homophobia, xenophobia, anti-choice, anti-women, etc.
In my opinion, Claver’s billboards are offensive. The billboard above is highly offensive to women in general. The men are wearing nice suits and ties that emphasize their good looks without compromising their dignity. The women or girls, however, are dressed just the opposite. That fact, in and of itself, is a problem. They are wearing skin-tight jeans, revealing tops showing cleavage, bared midriff and belly, and standing provocatively around the men. This billboard begs the question is Apostle Claver selling shared conservative values with a hint of Christianity by his use of the term “apostle,” or he is selling booty. That’s not “swagger;” that’s vile.
Another billboard equally offensive and misleading shows a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying he was a Republican. First and foremost, Dr. King was a minister. Apostle Claver says on his website that although Raging Elephants is not a religious group, they do follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. If that is really true, Claver should have never used Dr. King in this way. Secondly, Dr, King was a humanitarian, a peacemaker and a uniter of all people; not just conservatives. He took special care from being called a Republican or Democrat. His goal was a moral one, spirited within him to fight for justice for all people and was grounded in his faith and not a political party. To use him in this manner is degrading and misleading. Claver’s obvious reach out to black youth makes his misrepresentations all the more ugly.
Looking deeper into the reference of Dr. King as a Republican, albeit a Republican of the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. King fought for equal and civil rights of all people while ultra conservatives promote homophobia, xenophobia and continue to enslave people of color by promoting a new kind of Jim Crow Law, mass incarceration.
If any black person wants to know what Raging Elephants are all about, he or she should take a look at their website and note under the “links” section that the first one is the Cato Institute, which was co-founded by Charles Koch in 1977. One of their goals is to privatize Social Security wherein private firms would use one’s hard-earned money to invest in the stock market. They also oppose smoking bans, the mandatory use of seat belts in vehicles and a host of other life-saving laws. The second link is to the Heritage Foundation which was co-founded by Paul Weyrich, the man who developed voter suppression for the Republican Party. In this video clip, Weyrich said:
“Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Now juxtapose Weyrich’s rightwing theory of not wanting everyone to vote with that of Dr. King’s work that he gave his life for and you have to ask whose really behind the Raging Elephants group? All in all, this group looks like just another effort by rightwing conservatives and most likely gets some funding and promotion from the Koch group, Americans for Prosperity. Even their ads and billboards reek of AOP tactics.