'Why Am I A Republican?' Conservative Analyst Questions GOP's Response To Protests

Jun 13, 2020
Originally published on June 13, 2020 12:47 pm

Shermichael Singleton isn't sure where he fits in the Republican Party anymore.

That didn't used to be the case. Singleton is an experienced conservative political analyst who has worked for plenty of prominent Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ben Carson.

But as a black man, he says he has watched with grief and disappointment as the GOP and many of its supporters have struggled to grapple with the recent protests over racial injustice and policing in the U.S. under President Trump.

"It leaves me wondering: Why am I a Republican?" he said in an interview Saturday with NPR's Weekend Edition. "What is the Republican Party even attempting to conserve that I believe is consistent with my values as an American, with my values as an African American, with my values as a Christian? And unfortunately ... I hate to say this, but I don't know anymore."

For example, both before and after George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police officers incited protests nationwide, Trump has made it clear that he supports and defends the Confederate memorials that have reemerged as flashpoints of controversy in the demonstrations.

Earlier this week, he vowed to block bipartisan congressional efforts to rename military bases that bear the names of Confederate generals, saying they stand for "a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom."

Here is how Singleton — who has been a vocal critic of Trump — explained how he came to feel he is in a "no-man's land," alongside "many right-leaning and conservative individuals who are slowly finding themselves in that same position."


Interview Highlights

What are your feelings right now, as a human being, as a black man in America?

I am gravely disappointed about this moment in time we find ourselves in. I often have been taught by my parents ... that despite our differences — differences of race, that is — that our hopes and dreams in this country have always been the same. And that is to be free and explore every opportunity and to do things that those before us weren't capable or able to do.

And it appears to me in this particular moment that there still remains a significant percent of people who are traveling on a road so far removed from where I think many of us are, that it's heartfelt, it makes me grieve, it makes me sad, it makes me confused. ...

But I still have hope. I have to have hope in this country, because I know that the country that my grandparents and my great-grandparents lived in is no more; there's still remnants. And so my hope is that this time, we can clear those remnants so that as we go forward, there will be no more. So that when I have children, they won't have to deal with or imagine the things that I am currently dealing with now — not only as an African-American, but simply as as an American.

These things should stress us all out. They should give us all anxiety that we have not quite reached the pinnacle of what we are capable of reaching.

Has the Republican Party, which after all, founded in 1854 to expose the expansion of slavery, the party of [Abraham] Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, Sen. Edward Brooke, Colin Powell and you, how did they become the party that defends the Confederate flag?

Again, this just goes to the greatest disappointment that I have and I think a lot of people in the Republican Party have become so reactionary in their views.

To be a conservative doesn't necessarily mean that one wants to go backwards. To be a conservative is to understand that there are certain things that we have inherited that are good, that we must preserve as we move forward, because to move forward is an innate part of human nature.

But it is also to understand, Scott, that there are some bad things that we have inherited, such as the Confederacy, and that those are things that we should throw away, that we should discard, things that we recognize we cannot keep if we are to move forward in the right direction.

And it seems that the Republican Party under President Trump doesn't seem to recognize that. That is not conservative; that is reactionary. And I don't think we can tolerate those types of sentiments as we move forward. I just don't see how it's consistent with a country that's becoming so diverse demographically.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump often cites polls, and he is often wrong. In fact, current polls show his public disapproval rating is over 50%. Joe Biden is well ahead in national polls for president and in many significant battleground states. Polls also show Democrats with a chance to win control of the Senate, as they keep control of the House. The current urgent issues of the coronavirus and the legacy of slavery test U.S. Democracy. How is the Republican Party responding? Shermichael Singleton is a conservative political analyst who worked for republicans Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Dr. Ben Carson. He joins us from Northern Virginia. And, Shermichael, you've often been a guest on our show. Thanks very much for being with us.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON: Scott, thank you so much for having me and giving me an opportunity to talk about this important issue.

SIMON: We'll get to the politics, but what are your feelings right now as a human being, as a black man in America?

SINGLETON: Oh, Scott, I am gravely disappointed about this moment in time we find ourselves in. I often have been taught by my parents - and fortunately, I have one great-grandparent still alive - that despite our differences - the differences of race, that is - that our hopes and dreams in this country have always been the same. And that is to be free and explore every opportunity, and to do things that those before us weren't capable or able to do.

And it appears to me in this particular moment that there still remains a significant percent of people who are traveling on a road so far removed from where I think many of us are that it's heartfelt. It makes me grieve. It makes me sad. It makes me confused because I would wonder at 29 at this point in time - we would be in such a different place, Scott. And it doesn't appear that we're quite at that place, but I still have hope. I have to have hope in this country because I know that the country that my grandparents and my great-grandparents lived in is no more - there's still remnants.

And so my hope is at this time, we can clear those remnants so that as we go forward, there will be no more, so that when I have children, they won't have to deal with or imagine the things that I am currently dealing with now not only as an African American but simply as an American. These things should stress us all out. They should give us all anxiety that we have not quite reached a pinnacle of what we are capable of reaching.

SIMON: Has the Republican Party, which, after all, founded in 1854 to expose the expansion of slavery - the party of Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, Senator Edward Brooke, Colin Powell and you - how did they become the party that defends the Confederate flag?

SINGLETON: Scott, again, this just goes to the greatest disappointment that I have. And I think a lot of people in the Republican Party have become so reactionary in their views. And to be a conservative doesn't necessarily mean that one wants to go backwards. To be a conservative is to understand that there are certain things that we have inherited that are good, that we must preserve as we move forward because to move forward is an innate part of human nature. But it is also to understand, Scott, that there are some bad things that we have inherited, such as the Confederacy, and that those are things that we should throw away, that we should discard, things that we recognize we cannot keep if we are to move forward in the right direction. And it seems that the Republican Party under President Trump doesn't seem to recognize that. That is not conservative. That is reactionary. And I don't think we can tolerate those types of sentiments as we move forward. I just don't see how it's consistent with a country that's becoming so diverse demographically.

SIMON: I got to ask in the half-minute we have left, are you disappointed more prominent Republicans haven't spoken up?

SINGLETON: I am, Scott. And it leaves me wondering, why am I a Republican? What is the Republican Party even attempting to conserve that I believe is consistent with my values as an American, with my values as an African American, with my values as a Christian? And unfortunately, Scott, I hate to say this, but I don't know anymore. And so I was finding myself almost as a man in no man's land. And I believe that there are many right-leaning and conservative individuals who are slowly finding themselves in that same position.

SIMON: Shermichael Singleton, thanks so much for being with us.

SINGLETON: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.