Jackie Robinson is remembered for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, but he played a less heralded role in Republican politics and black community activism. Robinson was a vital voice of reason in the early ‘60’s as the black liberation movement in the urban north grew more radicalized. He struggled to preserve an older, conservative vision of social progress against a wave of left-wing extremism.
In his biography, Robinson described what drew him to Republican politics:
“I believed blacks ought to become producers, manufacturers, developers and creators of businesses, providers of jobs. For too long we had been spending too much money on liquor while we owned too few liquor stores and were not even manufacturing it.
Wikipedia notes he veered left later:
Robinson was angered by conservative Republican opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He became one of six national directors for Nelson Rockefeller’s unsuccessful campaign to be nominated as the Republican candidate for the 1964 presidential election. After the party nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona instead, Robinson left the party’s convention commenting that he now had “a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany”. He later became special assistant for community affairs when Rockefeller was re-elected governor of New York in 1966. Switching his allegiance to the Democrats, he subsequently supported Hubert Humphrey against Nixon in 1968.
What can we learn from this? I’m by no means a scholar of the details, but it sure seems that, when adhering to basic conservative principles, the GOP succeeds, and when it gets caught up in the elitist stereotypes played to such great effect by the Obama campaign in 2012, the GOP gets whacked.
Update: more at Grand Old Partisan.