I believe that ideological diversity in the black community is a strength and not a weakness. If a person makes the choice to support a political party (or not) based on their own principled positions on policy, immediate material self-interest, support of a single public policy issue, or out of respect and/or deference to a family tradition I can accept their choice. Of course, I privilege some types of political calculi over others in terms of how they represent nuanced and sophisticated considerations of matters of public concern. But, I try to respect a person's political choices, and give them the agency and freedom to stake out their own political terrain.
However, I have no use for black conservatives such as C.L. Bryant, Herman Cain, Allen West, Larry Elder, Clarence Thomas and others of their ilk. Black conservatives of their stripe consistently suggest that African Americans who are not Republicans are instead on some type of "plantation," possessed by false consciousness, or stupid and confused. History (and facts) contradict such hellish lies: African Americans have been the moral, spiritual, and ethical conscience of this nation; the ways that we grabbed "the great tocsin of freedom" from Reconstruction to the present is a wonderful example of the radically democratic possibilities in the American experience.
Bryant and his brethren made a financial calculation. They can get paid lots of money for pandering to white conservative populists. As I pointed out in a series of essays on Herman Cain "The New Age Race Minstrel," black conservatives are like a salve or the great fountain at Lourdes which simultaneously insulates white conservatives from charges of racism and legitimates white racial resentment because these characters, de facto Stepin Fetchits, are the "good negroes"--humble, deferent, subservient, and validating to the White Gaze--which white conservatives wish all black and brown folks would be.
In keeping with an earlier allusion to carnivals and flim-flam artists, C.L. Bryant is running a great con game as he channels and performs for the white reactionary conservatives at the Freedomworks sponsored FreePac convention and rally.
Ultimately, C.L. Bryant is like a black man giving his own funeral oratory before a lynching at which he will be the "honored guest." It is freakishly beautiful.
Likewise, the beautifully ugly uniformity that is Conservative Whiteness in the audience is worked up in an odd mix of church revival, "patriotic" gathering, and sporting event. As I am fond of saying, the people in the audience at FreePac are heirs to the folks who would have brought picnics and a nice glass of tea to a lynching not too many decades ago--and then purchased postcards of said barbarism.
[I do not make such a reference without careful and specific intent. Freedomworks is an AstroTurf group run by the Koch brothers. Their family helped to establish the racist John Birch Society, and was also connected to White Conservative Citizens Councils that opposed the Civil Rights Movement. Freedomworks also supports many retrograde and nativist policy positions that are hostile to people of color, the working classes, and the poor.]
C.L. Bryant's performance is complemented by an expose at the Right-wing muckraking site The Blaze. There Bryant explains his transformation from a "lost" black Democrat to a "saved" and "found" black conservative. His shtick even has a Paul on the Road to Damascus element to it--except the moment of revelation is Bryant's salvation by Rush Limbaugh:
After leaving the NAACP, Bryant moved to Tampa, Florida, with his wife. One day, he recalls listening to the radio in an effort to find Jim Hightower, a liberal commentator he enjoyed listening to. But, rather than finding the show he had come to know and love, he stumbled upon something very different.
“I was flipping through the AM stations and I came across a guy by the name of Rush,” Bryant said, referring to popular radio host Rush Limbaugh. “The more I listened to this guy, Rush — there was something that he was saying that rang true to me.”
From there, the transformation began and Bryant recognized that many leftist policies and ideals create a mindset of victimization among African Americans and others.[Insert finger into mouth in order to induce vomiting.]
C.L. Bryant, and others like him who have decided that laying down with Power against the interests of their own community, have always been with us. They were the "colored" colonial administrators, the black slave drivers and slave catchers, and Native Americans who worked with the U.S. government to hunt down their own tribes. Some of these folks were cowards; others were self-interested materially minded utility maximizing individuals; a good number were just traitors.
History is full of these odd alliances and moments. For example, as the expertly researched book Night Riders in Black Folk History details, there were apparently African-Americans who rode with the KKK and even formed their own informal Klan groups.
C.L. Bryant and his black conservative brethren and kin can trace their ideological lineage back to those tragic wellsprings. In an era when conservatism and racism are one and the same, it vexes me how any self-respecting person of color could ally themselves with Freedomworks or any other Tea Party, John Bircher-like group. But then again, we all have a price. I hope C.L. Bryant received a pretty penny for his role as a black conservative political Judas.