In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Star Parker had a routine. She would drop her daughter off at a government-funded day care center, then head out to Venice Beach and do drugs all day. Then she’d come back and get her daughter in the afternoon.
Three decades later, she’s a Sarah Palin-endorsed candidate for Congress. Parker runs her own four-employee foundation, frequently appears on television and is the author of three books and a syndicated column, currently suspended during her campaign. She was a guest speaker at the Value Voters Summit last year, along with the likes of Mike Huckabee and Bill O’Reilly. And yes, she’s a black Republican.
On paper, Parker has little chance of beating incumbent Laura Richardson in the 37th Congressional District. Democrats have a 44-point registration advantage there, according to the latest figures from the California Secretary of State’s office. Richardson was reelected with over three-quarters of the vote in 2008, despite the bad press of her numerous real estate deals gone awry, including letting a Sacramento home go into foreclosure that year.
No Republican even bothered to challenge Richardson last time, and Parker ran unopposed for the GOP nomination this year. When asked why she’s running, Parker said this: “To do something about the political insanity.”
The insanity, as Parker sees it, is the dependence on the welfare state that is keeping minority communities helpless and stuck. Her own ideas may seem anathema to the African American political establishment. Parker wants to abolish the minimum wage for teenagers, something she said will put minority teenagers to work and partially address the country’s illegal immigration problem. She wants to phase out most welfare, abolish the Department of Housing and Urban Development and move Social Security to private accounts because the current system “won’t survive” the Baby Boomer generation. She wants to “revisit” the concept of progressive taxation and explore the idea of a flat tax.
All of this from a woman who freely acknowledges that she was once a welfare mother.
“I bought that idea of the left, that poor people were poor because rich people were rich,” Parker said. “I wasn’t even going to try to compete with that.”
And, she freely admits, she didn’t. After a childhood spent moving from one military base to another, including years in Japan, she ended up as an aimless young adult in Los Angeles. She’s had four abortions and got arrested for shoplifting. She hung out with a rough crowd who broke the law.
Now 53, she got her life in gear in her mid-to-late 20s, heading off to college and becoming a Christian. Parker said she went to her welfare caseworker and told her she was going to go off the dole.
“She was not pleased. I think they’re trained to keep people there.”
A few years later, she said, she got a reminder of the potential future she left behind when she was riding the bus. She looked out the window and saw an ex-boyfriend sitting on a bench looking bedraggled, his belongings piled in a shopping cart.
She founded the Center for Urban Renewal and Education in 1995 to spread her message that conservative ideas were the cure for what ails minority communities in America. After the years of being a bicoastal organization, she moved it full-time to Washington, D.C. recently, a town which she noted could serve as a kind of poster city for the things she talks about. It currently has two full-time and two part-time staff.
Her first book came out in 1998. “Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats: From Welfare Cheat to Conservative Messenger” was her memoir of her lost years and political awakening. She compared welfare to slavery in 2003’s “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It.” In 2006, she used “White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Inner City Decay” to argue that the welfare system hurts everyone, not just the people who are in it.
“When you couple secular humanism with a welfare state, the message is you don’t have to be responsible with your life choices,” Parker said.
Parker is a Christian who opposes abortion and gay marriage, something she compared to “the theory that serving up another glass of wine is the way to help a drunk” in a column in the Washington Examiner.
But she insists, “I don’t want to have a less secular society. You cannot legislate morality, but you can regulate behavior.”
The behavior Parker wants to regulate, though, has more to do with the economic sphere. She has a simple message: “You don’t work, you won’t eat. You don’t study, you won’t graduate.”
It’s a message that seems to be resonating. She gets dozens of letters and emails each day. “It ain’t easy being black and conservative, but with your efforts the light bulb is coming on for more and more black people and democrats,” wrote one “HUGE fan” who identified himself as a 36-year-old black man in California. A women wrote in nostalgic about when she was young and “it was shameful to get gov’t assistance.” Another young man wrote in to say that he wasvery concerned about “Black Liberation Theology” which “is rooted in Marxist Theology.”
“For every nasty letter that Star gets, she gets 20 of these,” said Bob Borens, one of CURE’s two full-time employees. Of course, there are the nasty letters too, which Borens said tend to be “emotional” and “filled with profanity.”
Borens himself is white and worked for years at the CATO Institute. He said he met Parker in the late 90s and was so impressed by her that he started taking time to work on issues for CURE. He came over fulltime in 2001.
Borens said he was drawn in by Parker’s ability to put forward a different message to African Americans than they are used to hearing.
“Despite the cliché that black are left-wing liberals, blacks are far more conservative than is generally appreciated,” Borens said.
This is a subject that is coming to the fore due to the current obsession among the NAACP and black leadership with the alleged racist elements in the Tea Party. He said Parker and other black columnists like Jason Riley are turning this allegation on its head and attacking these same people for their own role in the unemployment and helplessness in these communities.
“It is incredibly moving to read some of these letters from women who had been on welfare who identify with her story and write to her to thank her for what she’s doing,” Boren said.
“Star, no matter how busy she is, she responds to these people. She’ll call and talk to these women. When Star speaks, they’ll drive hours to come and see her.”