I know Republicans have much to do to earn the trust of African-Americans. Blacks know that Republican Barry Goldwater, in 1964, ran against Lyndon Johnson, a champion of civil rights. They know that Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because he felt that parts of it were unconstitutional.
States supporting segregation in the South cited “states’ rights” as a justification for keeping blacks from the voting booth and the dinner table.
As you know, I am an ardent believer in the Tenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment says that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government is.
But I am also an ardent believer in the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
There has been – and will continue to be – an important and legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights.
Too often, we Republicans – myself included – have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth – an Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.
For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all.
It is time for us to once again reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.