Chapter 4: Find Your Niche
How hard could it be? Jackson's a black conservative, for heaven's sake. In politics he's a rare creature. But it turns out he wasn't rare enough to get speaking engagements by merely announcing his existence.

"Black conservatism has been around a long time," says Minta, the Wash. U. professor. "It's the same argument [as modern conservatism]: You need to be self-sufficient and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. In the late 1800s, Booker T. Washington was telling people, 'Work hard, go into business, don't worry about social or political equality, we don't need federal programs — we don't need anything.'"

Until the 1930s, the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and emancipation and black equality, while the Democratic Party was the party of the Ku Klux Klan. (Martin Luther King Jr. was said to have been a Republican, though Minta says there's no evidence King ever voted.) That changed during the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt's relief programs won over many African Americans to the Democrat side, and the process was completed when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which sent the segregationist "Dixiecrats" fleeing into the arms of the Republicans.

Jennifer Silverberg
The politician who inspired Kevin Jackson, Ronald Reagan.
The politician who inspired Kevin Jackson, Ronald Reagan.

Jackson learned about the nineteenth-century Republican Party from a history book he stumbled across at military school. He was stunned. Or as he puts it: "I got to see what those suckers had lied to me about over time." He took this as evidence that the Republican Party was the party that really cared about blacks even though, as Minta points out, the philosophy of the Republicans of a century ago has little to do with the philosophy of Republicans today. Jackson and his fellow black conservatives continue to blame the Democrats — particularly black Democratic leaders — for continuing to "enslave" the African American population by making them dependent on social programs and teaching them that they are victims.

"I looked at a video of Al Sharpton's 'Reclaim the Dream' rally," says Lloyd Marcus, an Orlando-based black conservative who wrote "The American Tea Party Anthem," the theme song of the Tea Party Express. "It was Al Sharpton and a bunch of civil-rights dinosaurs leading a procession of college kids singing 'We Shall Overcome.' It was like an episode of The Twilight Zone! What is this, 1950? It's absurd. They don't know what they're singing about. They came in $40,000 cars wearing $250 tennis shoes. It's the typical race baiting Democrats do to convince blacks they are victims in America. They are not."

Black conservatives argue that most African Americans are really like them and just don't know it because they've been in the habit of voting Democrat for so long.

"African Americans are largely religious Christians who are pro-life and believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman," asserts Princella Smith, who this year ran as a Republican for an open congressional seat in Arkansas. "But their voting trends are opposite their religion. I'm young, black and female, and I'm expected to vote a certain way. I'm never supposed to look across the aisle and have complex feelings. Was every white man supposed to vote for John McCain?"

"Rap music is fiscally conservative!" says Jackson. "It's all, 'I made this money; now you got your hand in my pocket.' It's like Flavor Flav said: 'I got mine, now leave me alone, and you get yours.'"

So maybe black conservatism isn't so illogical after all. But when an event organizer is looking for a speaker, why pick Kevin Jackson instead of Princella Smith or Lloyd Marcus? Or why not try for a really big name like Thomas Sowell, the right's equivalent to Henry Louis Gates Jr.?

Last November Jackson found himself in precisely that quandary. He had no income. His book was out, but nobody was buying it. He needed to reinvent himself. Then it hit him: People don't want to be lectured to, they want to be entertained.

"If you're going to be taken seriously, people have to see you as an entertainer," he explains. "Thomas Sowell has no humor at all. He understands economic theory — he's forgotten more about economic theory than Obama ever knew — but the likelihood of me surpassing him is pretty good, because I'm funny."

Thus was born Jackson's dream of becoming the next Jon Stewart — whose show, as he points out, is where many young liberals get their news. Or maybe the next Dave Chappelle, only his sketches would be more political.

And there is, you have to admit, a void that could be filled. Conservatives have not generally been known for their sense of humor. "Conservatives have made the mistake of being a little edgy and a little bit crabby and screechy about their point of view," says Jamie Allman. "Kevin is able to present his views with a smile and a wink and a sense of irony, not meanness."

Jackson had a lot of ideas. "I've got this bit called the 'White Guilt Power Plant,'" he says. "We use liberal Code Pink words to provoke white guilt, and then we attach them to a wire, and it powers black neighborhoods."

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