Being Black, Patriotic, and Conservative,


This weekend, a book by Reginald Bohannon called, Coming Out of the Republican Closet: Coming to Terms With Being Black, Patriotic, and Conservative, caught my eye. So, I contacted Mr. Bohannon and set up a phone interview with him. What you’re about to see is an edited transcript of our conversation.

John Hawkins: I found this tagline from the description of your book interesting:

“Bohannon soon discovered that he was conservative. Not wanting to disappoint his family and bring ill-repute on them, Bohannon chose to keep his political viewpoints to himself.”

Tell us about that. Why would being conservative disappoint your family and “bring ill repute on them?”

Reginald Bohannon: Well, for one, 90-95% of blacks vote for the Democratic Party and my mom was — and still is — active with the Democratic Party in Lexington, North Carolina. If I..came out and told her that I was a Republican, she would…get (called names) and so would I — Uncle Tom, sell-out, Oreo and things of that nature.

So, once I did find out that I was conservative …I didn’t want the name calling and I hadn’t gotten up the courage to come out of the closet at that time. Once I learned more about conservatism and educated myself through talk radio, columns, and books, that gave me the courage to say, “Yes, I am conservative and I do vote for Republicans.”

John Hawkins: Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of polling data and I think that at least a third of black Americans should probably be voting Republican based on their views. Would you agree with that estimate? Do you think it’s high, low?

Reginald Bohannon: I think it’s much higher because blacks by and large are conservative, but what happens is that we automatically jump to the Democratic Party…without even determining whether we are conservative or liberal. That’s what I did. I basically went with the Democratic Party because that’s who my mom is with.

The majority of blacks are conservative, but they’re not aware of it. When I talk to people who are running for office or blacks in general, I tell them that I’m not necessarily trying to get them to change into Republicans, I just want them to see who they really are.

John Hawkins: The tag line for your book says that you, “grew up Democrat but switched to a Republican. Find out why.” So why did you switch from a Democrat to a Republican?

Reginald Bohannon: In 1988, I was in Atlanta and that was when the Democratic convention came to town — and Jesse Jackson was running. I said, “Great! This will be a good time for me to really get into politics.” I had never voted before and…so I volunteered with the Jesse Jackson campaign.

At that time, the Rainbow Coalition was at its height with Jesse Jackson getting blacks and Hispanics around the country (to register) for the Democratic Party. So, I thought to myself that if Jesse Jackson does not get the Presidential nomination outright, then he certainly would be selected as the Vice-Presidential nominee because (he brought in so many new voters for the Democratic Party).

Of course…they selected Lloyd Bentsen. That’s when I really got disgruntled. I said, “Wait a minute. I thought the Democratic Party was for minorities? Why didn’t they select Jesse Jackson?” That’s when…I decided to do my homework on both parties.

…(I) found out that the Republican Party was founded to combat and get rid of slavery. After the Civil War, they enacted so many laws that were favorable towards blacks. Then when the Democrats got control of the House and Senate, they repealed a lot of those laws.

…Once I discovered those things, I tried to take the easy way out by becoming an independent…Later on, as I got more knowledge and the courage, I finally just came out and told my mom after a big argument, over Christmas, about President Clinton and his peccadillos. I said, “By the way, I voted for Bob Dole!”

John Hawkins: (Laughs)

Reginald Bohannon: That was my official coming out right there, after a big blow up and argument with her. It was like I was coming out of the closet, like a gay person does with his parents.

…That was when talk radio was getting really big with Rush Limbaugh….Before Rush Limbaugh, a lot of people were in the closet with their conservatism, even whites. But, when Rush came out it gave conservatives a bigger voice and an understanding that yes, we’re out here and willing to debate the issues.

John Hawkins: How do you think the GOP should deal with the NAACP? Should they try to engage them, treat them as a partisan liberal organization, or do something else?

Reginald Bohannon: I would like to see (the GOP) try to engage them. Show them how they are conservative. Show them how the Republican Party was founded. A lot of people that are in the NAACP are into the church. More blacks go to church on a percentage basis than whites. So, it’s like we get our conservative principles from the Bible, in church, but when we step outside of that church then we all of a sudden become liberal. A lot of times, liberalism goes against our conservative beliefs, beliefs that we’ve gotten in the church.

What I would like to see the RNC do is point out the fact that blacks are conservative and even if you’re going to remain a Democrat, do not give up on your conservative beliefs and principles. Just like with gay marriage — blacks know gays, we have them in our families — we love gays, but by and large, we do not want to see them get married. But, the Democratic Party wants to see them get married, so in turn, the black elected Democratic leaders have to go along with that, even knowing that (most) blacks do not agree with gays getting married.

…The Democratic Party wants to accept any and everybody and whatever your issue is, once you come on in their tent — everybody has to agree with everybody else’s stance. That doesn’t bode well for black people in general.

John Hawkins: If, let’s say, George Bush, Ken Mehlman, Bill Frist and some of the other leaders of the Republican Party came to you and said, “We want to reach out to black Americans and bring them into the Republican Party. What do we need to say or do to make that happen?” What would you tell them?

Reginald Bohannon: …Get some talking points and show what the Republican Party stands for, what conservatism is. Reveal who these people are, reveal that they’re conservative. …A lot of blacks think the Republican Party is racist, but they (need to) hold onto their conservative beliefs and say, “This is the party I’m supposed to be in and if I think it’s racist, let me get into it and make changes.” But once they get into the (Republican) Party, they’ll see that the Party is not racist (like) the opposition is telling them…The Republican Party, conservatism, is our home. People like Bill Frist, President Bush need to say, “Come on home. This is your party. This is where you belong.”

Have blacks not just coming in to vote, but running for meaningful positions around the country. You see a lot of intelligent blacks running for office all around the country. Whether it’s in Maryland with Michael Steele or Ken Blackwell in Ohio…and it takes some intelligence to be a black Republican because you have to do your homework. …To be a Democrat, you just have to join the Party that your family belongs to and you don’t have to learn anything at all.

John Hawkins: …Thanks a lot for taking the time. I appreciate it.

You can get Mr. Bohannon’s book, Coming Out of the Republican Closet: Coming to Terms With Being Black, Patriotic, and Conservative, here.

Mr. Hawkins runs Right Wing News, a conservative blog. He writes a weekly column for Human Events Online.


3 Responses to Being Black, Patriotic, and Conservative,

  1. Robin says:

    Mr Bohannon,

    It is a real shame to hear a Black man speak about the republican party as “our home”. We should feel at “home” when republicans like Bill Bennett makes statements that crime would be reduced if every Black baby were aborted. The party of Strom Thurmond who said “I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.” . The party that disenfranchised Blacks and other minorities int he 2000 and 2004 elections is “home”? The very party that redistricted Texas to water down the minority vote in heavily populated Black and Mexican districts?

    I had thought we has stopped carrying water for massa. Well, you go ahead and do as you please. That is the Democratic way. But to suggest that because Blacks are conservative on issues of abortion and gay marriage and therefore should consider the republican party as a result while voting against their own best interest on iseeue that affect them on a daily basis is repugnant. Some of these people have already been conned out of their vote on those issues without them being fulfilled…twice. These are Christians who believe in Jesus Christ. Remember Him? He is the one that gives us choice; it is called FREE WILL.

    I realize that you have heard this before and I am sure more articulately. You are entitled to your belief and vote but I am sure that in the dark, when you are alone, you must be ashamed of yourself.

  2. Robin,

    To personally respond to some of your comments, you stated that, “I had thought we has stopped carrying water for massa.” First of all, I think you demean yourself when you write in this type of language. Secondly, with 90-95% of blacks voting for the Democratic Party, I would think that it is the majority of blacks, including you, that is carrying the water for the Democratic Party.

    Case in point; as I write in my book, during the 2004 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Al Sharpton was the only black candidate amongst seven whites. Knowing that Sharpton would garner the black vote and the other seven white candidate’s votes would be split amongst white voters, the party decided to get Donna Brazille (a black lady) to talk another black person (Carol Moseley-Braun) into running in the race, only to split up Sharpton’s support. Months later after both of their campaigns were failing, Brazille asked both Sharpton and Moseley-Braun to drop out.

    Another case in point; in the past few years, the Democratic Party powers that be had three opportunities to select a black Democrat to either run for U.S. senate or outright become a U.S. senator without having to be elected. Each time, they selected a 70-plus year-old white man (New Jersey – Lautenberg; Minnesota – Mondale). The other one was in my state of Georgia, the cradle of Civil Rights, home of Dr. King as well as Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson and other prominent black democrats. But rather than the Democrat governor selecting a black icon such as Jackson or Young, he selected a 70-plus year-old white man, Zell Miller. Miller though, came back to haunt the Democratic Party because he supported President Bush. Now tell me, who is carrying water?

    If you were to get my book, “Coming Out of the Republican Closet – Coming to terms with being black, patriotic, and conservative”, you would get a better understanding of politics including both the Democrats and Republicans relationship with blacks. In my book, I list other writers, particularly black writers, who have been studying the issues much longer than I have and they can give you a great lesson on politics and race.

    Thank you.

    Reginald Bohannon

  3. Richard Antoine says:

    Mr Bohannon.. I do look forward to reading your book. However.. it comes as something of a shock to me that someone with even a CASUAL read of american history would think that the NAACP would in some way need to be educated about the Republican Party or its role in championing the end of slavery. After all.. most politically active blacks WERE members of the Republican Party into the 1950s when the support for the Party was almost nonexistent among WHITES who lived in the south… that is Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Lousiana, Arkansas, and Texas. Any child can open a history book and show you that several blacks served in the United States Senate in the post civil war era and they were all Republicans… in fact they were called RADICAL REPUBLICANS and if Rush Limbaugh had had a radio show then… he’d have spit out those words with the same contempt he says “LIBERAL” today(incidentally… why beat around George Bush… when you say Liberal you are actually saying “northeastern secular jew” or it’s equivalent).

    We know the south was solidly Democratic and solidly racist and that the Northern Democrats generally maintained peace within the party by being mealymouthed, as they are today. on the very divisive and fundamental issues that face us. Meanwhile.. the Republican Party was mainly the party of the north and west… it abandoned it’s abolitionist and anti racist elements from the period including the election compromise of 1876 through the split in the party in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt ran on his own Bull Moose Party ticket while his protege Taft ran with the support of big business creating the business wing of the Republican Party and the remnant of liberal and moderate Republicans who are being run out of the party nowadays like McCain, Snowe, Nelson Rockefeller et al.

    Strom Thurmond who was a lifelong democrat through his siring an illegitimate black child, storming the beaches of Normandy to fight for freedom justice and democracy, then promptly returned home to run for Governor of South Carolina and then in 1948 ran a campaign for President on a Segregationist ticket in a challenge to the Democratic Party then being led by Roosevelt’s succesor Truman who apparently wasn’t QUITE racist enough for Thurmond’s liking. Thurmond, Jesse Helms and the various dixiecrats who serve as the villains in the civil rights movement were ALL Democrats it’s true. However… after their fellow dixiecrat Lyndon Johnson claimed he would see through the mealy mouthed northeastern Liberal President John Kennedy’s pledges on civil rights and then signed the civil rights act of 1964 and 1965 what did all those Southern Democrats do? Well.. as I hope I will see noted in your book. You will come to grips with the fact that the solid Democratic south is now solidly Republican. That the black political leaders who served as mayors of Atlanta and made changes which created that city, temporarily, as a black mecca, were indeed Democrats in the 1970s. That the last Democratic President before Bill Clinton was a Governor of Georgia who had spoken out against segregation. That Georgia had no Republican Party to speak of(except for the blacks who registered as republicans for decades after the party ceased being the “party of Lincoln” in 1912… as MOST blacks, if they COULD register to vote, registered Republican). Hopefully your book will be honest about the oft used Republican talking point “a greater percentage of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than Democrats and Lyndon Johnson thanked the Republicans who voted for the civil rights act as he couldn’t have gotten it through without them.”… well we all know about lies, damned lies and statistics! The Republicans made up a minority of the Senate and House at the time as their party almost did not exist in the SOLID SOUTH. The greater percentage of Republicans represented a LESSER NUMBER of actual Senators and Congressman as Democrats made up a wide majority of both houses and indeed NORTHERN DEMOCRATS and PRE-1965 REPUBLICANS did indeed stand together to support Civil Rights.

    But WHY did Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott et al LEAVE the Democratic Party and all become Republicans after 1965? Was it the Democratic stance on the windfall profits tax or abortion? No… it was Civil Rights. The Republican Party went from being a minority party to near parity with the larger Democratic Party based on THE WHITE MALE RESPONSE TO LEGALLY ENFORCED EQUITY BY THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. All the talking points in the world can’t overcome that truth. One need only look at what the Republican party does, emphasizes, activates for, and says.. to see behind it an agenda based on WHITE MALE RULE over all the Empire of the United States sees and surveys. That is the right-wing and republican parties disease and why black conservatives, no matter how well intentioned, spoken, or educated ultimately rest on a foundation of clay and why black americans who are indeed relatively traditional and conservative DO make a more or less correctly informed pull of that lever for Democrats. We may not like the variety of issues included under the Democratic tent… racist labor unions, communists, poorly thought out radicalisms, or militant gay activists… but we ALSO know that all of these things MUST be dealt with within a body politic where all people stand equal OR else it doesn’t make a difference WHAT any of us think. The black community.. perhaps reflexively if it errs… it errs on the side of EXPANSION of rights and openness of the political process, legislatures, and courts to those seeking that expansion. We may share a culture and christian tradition with the southern white man and get along with him well on a one to one basis, but we go 90% to 95% percent or BETTER voting against any agenda that makes him and his interests sovereign over all who come under the American umbrella. That is an honorable role for our people to play and while I feel we MUST indeed hear conservatism well and logically articulated, we do well to avoid ‘talking points’, talk radio, and bumper sticker so-called “conservative” philosophy being aimed into the american body politic by the Rush Limbaugh’s and Tony Snows of the world and their spiritual forebear Goebbels.

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