Romney Playlist

Why Mitt Romney’s Use of James Brown Annoys Black Voters

Mitt can dance all he wants to James Brown songs. He’s still DOA with black voters. By Mansfield Frazier.

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When Mitt Romney used James Brown’s 1985 Grammy-nominated anthem “Living in America” as his victory-lap song after his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last night, two thoughts ran parallel through my mind like twin herds of charging elephants: Either I (and virtually every other black in the country) have misread Republicans’ commitment to diversity—in spite of the fact that this year’s gathering is still virtually the same “sea of white faces” Colin Powell referenced back in 1992— or this anomaly serves as proof positive that politicians will plumb any depths in search of a victory.

Maybe Romney wants to borrow Brown’s moniker as “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” and become known as “The Hardest Working Man in Politics.”

Certainly a face or two of a more melanous hue could occasionally be spotted as the camera panned the enthusiastic crowd in the cavernous convention center, but they were as few and far between as they always have been at Republican gatherings of the faithful. But for all statistical purposes, Romney flatlines in polling among blacks: He scores a big, fat zero. Indeed, he might be doing worse among blacks than George W. Bush did in his two campaigns… but when statisticians are dealing with such infinitesimally small numbers, comparison is difficult.

But could this invoking of the words of the Godfather of Soul be a belated effort to inflate these flat polling numbers? I doubt it. He peppered his speech with too many coded, borderline-racist remarks—just as some of his commercials have scurrilously accused President Obama of virtually encouraging folks to go on welfare—that offend most minorities.

After all, Herman Cain chided blacks for their loyalty to the Democratic Party by accusing them of being on the “Democratic plantation” (due to the fact their unwavering fealty at the ballot box is oftentimes not repaid by Democratic administrations), but I seriously doubt Romney’s camp will use that phrasing to attract minority voters. In fact, many blacks shoot back at conservatives of color by accusing them of simply want to be in a party where the line of ascendancy is shorter.

In all probability, the incident connotes nothing. Probably some too-clever-by-half young staffer simply thought it was a cool, upbeat song with great lyrics … not stopping to consider for one second how the use of the song could be perceived. But in the end, they couldn’t lose: If conservative whites thought that using the song was a hoot (along the lines of Bush the Elder replacing Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas) … and blacks got all pissed off, so what? They’re not going to vote for Romney anyway.