Black politicians who switch to the Republican Party are betraying their voters
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Black Democratic politicians who flip parties after they are elected and join the MAGA Republicans are betraying their voters in a cynical, power-hungry and hazardous game of bait-and-switch. These dangerous political games come at an equally hazardous time for Black people, precisely when the Republican Party is the most racist and hostile it has ever been to Black lives and aspirations.
The most recent example of this phenomenon is Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, who, after successfully winning a second term, announced his switch to the GOP. Borrowing from the time-tested trope of urban crime, Johnson claimed Democratic policies have made crime and homelessness worse, and “lawless” cities need Republican leadership. Johnson — who may have tipped his hand by enjoying financial support from the white conservative business elite and having Clarence Thomas’ billionaire donor Harlan Crow on his steering committee — invited Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to the inauguration, with Cornyn swearing Johnson in a few months before the party switch.
After declaring himself a Republican, the Dallas mayor met with then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and more recently with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who apparently believes “America is not a racist country” — except when white donors get into his personal life and specifically ask about his marital status. All of this comes in the midst of a highly corrupt Texas Republican Party protecting a most corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Wanting their refund, Democrats have accused Johnson of defrauding Dallas voters and called on Johnson to resign and have waged a campaign to recall him. “On the surface folks may think this is simply Democrats v. Republicans but this is much deeper than that. This goes to the heart of why so ma[n]y folks in this country are so cynical” tweeted DNC chair Jaime Harrison on X (formerly Twitter). “They hate politics and detest politicians because they can’t trust them. Sadly, you have become the latest & best example of that cynicism- a cancer destroying the body politic. For you sir, I hope it was worth it.”
Two other prominent Black politicians who switched sides in recent years are former and current Georgia state representatives Vernon Jones and Mesha Mainor. Jones endorsed Trump for president in 2020 and became a Republican. Jones ran for governor in the 2022 primary against Brian Kemp — flanked by supporters Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik at his announcement, which tells you all you need to know — and dropped out. Then Jones ran for Georgia’s 10th Congressional seat and lost in a runoff to U.S. Rep. Mike Collins. Earlier this year, the Black MAGA Republican was ordered by a federal judge to pay $45,000 for blocking a constituent on Facebook and silencing his criticism while serving in the Georgia legislature.
State Rep. Mainor, the only Black Republican state legislator in Georgia, claims she left the Democrats because of her stance on school vouchers and disciplining prosecutors. Further, the once lifelong Democrat claimed her former party “relentlessly tried to sabotage every single thing that I have done for District 56” and “publicly slandered me in every way imaginable.” Mainor believes Democrats should reevaluate their party’s values. But the values of her newly adopted party is the problem.
The Republican Party was once the party of Lincoln and the party of choice for most Black people, with 2,000 Black officeholders during Reconstruction. But that was a very long time ago. Since that time, there has been a major realignment, and long story short, the GOP has emerged as the party of white American fascism, anti-Blackness and domestic terrorism. Unable to gain support from the majority of the population, the Republican Party has resorted to snatching, seizing and stealing power — by legislation and through armed insurrection.
Trump, the leader of the GOP, has more indictments than a mob boss and openly encourages violence and calls for assassinations. He wanted to shoot and kill Black Lives Matter protesters outside the White House and has promised to incarcerate political enemies if he becomes president again. And right-wing groups plan to dismantle democratic government and make Trump a far-right dictator.
Republicans stand in the way of Black progress and actively endanger us. Viewing our existence as a threat to white Christian straight men with means, the GOP works hard to prevent us from voting, from having our local elected officials represent us, from going to college, from controlling our bodies, our reproductive health and our sexuality. The Republicans would prohibit us from reading books about us, living a life without police violence and even receiving venture capital funding.
It is possible to both have a critique of the Democratic Party’s shortcomings and the flaws of the two-party system and to also acknowledge the Republican Party is a toxic threat to our future. The GOP is a party of alligators, and Black people most certainly are the intended alligator bait. Why would Black politicians subscribe to this foolishness — and most of all, right now — but for personal gain, fame and fortune, political contributions, clicks and attention, and all out of self-hate?
Then there is the corruption of it all, particularly when election switching has a decisive impact. Take, for example, when North Carolina state Rep. Tricia Cotham — a white Democrat and self-proclaimed supporter of abortion rights — switched parties to give the Republicans a veto-proof majority to restrict abortion in the state. Such bait-and-switch moves smell of election fraud, not to mention Russian strategies to overturn democratic governments.
Once again, the question remains: Why would a Black politician switch to a Republican Party that is at its most hostile and most lethal to Black people ever? Is there a bag of money sufficiently filled up to justify selling out your community, your voters or your own soul, and was it worth it?
David A. Love is a journalist and commentator who writes investigative stories and op-eds on a variety of issues, including politics, social justice, human rights, race, criminal justice and inequality. Love is also an instructor at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, where he trains students in a social justice journalism lab. In addition to his journalism career, Love has worked as an advocate and leader in the nonprofit sector, served as a legislative aide, and as a law clerk to two federal judges. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He also completed the Joint Programme in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. His portfolio website is davidalove.com.
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