Memphis Branch NAACP President Dr. Warner Dickerson was not the least bit impressed by Republican presidential candidate Willard "Mitt" Romney's speech to the NAACP's National Convention in Houston on Wednesday morning.
And if the GOP is ever going to regain strength in the African-American community, 2012 won't be the year, said Dickerson, who was in Houston for Romney's pitch.
Romney directly addressed the issue when he began, saying, "With 90 percent of African-Americans voting for Democrats, some of you may wonder why a Republican would bother to campaign in the African American community, and to address the NAACP. Of course, one reason is that I hope to represent all Americans, of every race, creed or sexual orientation, from the poorest to the richest and everyone in between."
But there is another reason, the former Massachusetts governor said.
"I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president."
And more: "I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of color – and families of any color – more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I would not be running for president."
Support is asked for and earned, said Romney, declaring that is why he came to the convention.
"The opposition charges that I and people in my party are running for office to help the rich. Nonsense," said Romney, one of the richest men ever to run for president of the United States. "The rich will do just fine whether I am elected or not. The President wants to make this a campaign about blaming the rich. I want to make this a campaign about helping the middle class."
Romney received what some termed a few standings ovations during the speech, but Dickerson says it was really no big whoop.
"It's a measure of politeness that we give to all speakers when we agree on a point," Dickerson said.
"For instance, when he said that black unemployment should not be as high as it is, obviously you are going to get a standing ovation on that. And standing ovation may not be the right term, about less than a fourth of the audience stood," Dickerson said.
"He didn't say anything that would change our mind to vote for him instead of his opponent. I don't think he felt he had anything to lose by speaking to the convention, and he might pick up some votes, but I don't think he could have felt that he would persuade the majority of us to vote for him."
Dickerson said it is understanding what the middle class wants and needs the most is where Romney tripped himself up at the convention.
"He talked about preserving Medicare and Social Security, but that's like talking about mother and apple pie, we all agree on that," said Dickerson.
"Then he spoke about when his father was governor (of Michigan) and how he supported civil rights. But it's when he said that if he became president he would cut unessential programs and named Obamacare as an example, that's when the boos started."
But is the African-American community hurting itself by continuing to vote in a near solid block for the Democratic Party?
And what is needed in the civil rights arena in the 21st century?
Dickerson said the party doesn't matter and that it's about supporting the people who believe what you believe in.
"Over the years the Republican Party has become what it is and the Democratic Party has become what it is. We don't have any permanent friends or permanent enemies," he said.
"The most pressing need we have right now is to fight the photo ID law. It's been placed on hold in Texas and South Carolina but it has passed in 13 states, including Tennessee. He's the nominee of the Republican Party that supports it and it's controlled by the Tea Party, so we can't support him," Dickerson said.
"It's simply a poll tax that (will) disenfranchise us and cause us to become servants again, and we're not going back," he said.
"I don't care if it's the Ku Klux Klan or the Tea Party, we've gotten what we have by going out and voting, and we must continue to go out and vote to keep these things from happening again."
Romney on Romney
(An excerpt from the transcript of Mitt Romney's address to the NAACP Convention in Houston)
"On Day One, I will begin turning this economy around with a plan for the middle class. And I don't mean just those who are middle class now – I also mean those who have waited so long for their chance to join the middle class.
"I know what it will take to put people back to work, to bring more jobs and better wages. My jobs plan is based on 25 years of success in business. It has five key steps.
"First, I will take full advantage of our energy resources, and I will approve the Keystone pipeline from Canada. Low cost, plentiful coal, natural gas, oil, and renewables will bring over a million manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
"Second, I will open up new markets for American products. We are the most productive major economy in the world, so trade means good jobs for Americans. But trade must be free and fair, so I'll clamp down on cheaters like China and make sure that they finally play by the rules.
"Third, I will reduce government spending. Our high level of debt slows GDP growth and that means fewer jobs. If our goal is jobs, we must, must stop spending over a trillion dollars more than we earn. To do this, I will eliminate expensive non-essential programs like Obamacare, and I will work to reform and save Medicare and Social Security, in part by means-testing their benefits.
"Fourth, I will focus on nurturing and developing the skilled workers our economy so desperately needs and the future demands. This is the human capital with which tomorrow's bright future will be built. Too many homes and too many schools are failing to provide our children with the skills and education that are essential for anything other than a minimum-wage job.
"And finally and perhaps most importantly, I will restore economic freedom. This nation's economy runs on freedom, on opportunity, on entrepreneurs, on dreamers who innovate and build businesses. These entrepreneurs are being crushed by high taxation, burdensome regulation, hostile regulators, excessive healthcare costs, and destructive labor policies. I will work to make America the best place in the world for innovators and entrepreneurs and businesses small and large.
"Do these five things – open up energy, expand trade, cut the growth of government, focus on better educating tomorrow's workers today, and restore economic freedom – and jobs will come back to America, and wages will rise again. The President will say he will do those things, but he will not, he cannot, and his record of the last four years proves it.
"If I am president, job one for me will be creating jobs. I have no hidden agenda. If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him."