By William Reed
The National Republican Committee surely needs to convince Black Americans of the benefits of joining their party. Is the Republican Party’s ideology that different from Blacks? What will it take to get Blacks to vote Republican?
If Blacks looked back over history, they’d see that the relationship with Republicans has been one of nearly unanimous support of Republicans’ progressive policies and practices. The Grand Old Party was founded by anti-slavery activists in 1854 and dominated national politics from 1860 to 1932. Abraham Lincoln was the first of 18 Republican presidents. So, how is it that the Party of Lincoln now gets less than 10 percent of the Black vote?
It’s time Republicans make moves that show contemporary Black Americans how they can benefit from their party, people and policies. The most substantial political and economic strides that Blacks made from Reconstruction to the civil rights era were under Republicans. Legislative gains Blacks made in the 1950s and in minority enterprise and wealth development in the 60s occurred under Republican Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
The Democrats have given Blacks ample reason to change their party and practices. In 2009, the average net worth for White households was $113,149 and $5,700 for Blacks; 14 percent of Black Americans are unemployed compared to 7 percent of Whites; and over the past two years, Black households’ median annual income fell more than twice as much as Whites. Since Blacks have monolithically voted the Democratic Party into office over the past 40 years, one would think those numbers are terrific arguments for Blacks voting Republican. Irony of ironies, Black voters continue their blind allegiance to ruinous Democratic leadership and policies.
Up to now, no matter how poorly served Black America is by the Democrats they won’t listen to what Republicans have to say. But, the Republicans aren’t exactly “locked and loaded.” They have yet to clearly define their brand and “what it is” and “what it stands for.” The time is near that the GOP implements activities and practices that position their message and image toward garnering 30 percent of Black votes in the 2016 national elections.
To help build the party and its future, Republicans must show Black voters they “share far more values with the Republican Party than they realize.” The Republicans are on the same page as most Blacks on abortion, gay marriage, Christian values, and take a conservative stance on illegal immigration, school choice, being tough on crime, and supporting entrepreneurs. Republican Party people have to start working with Black Americans and using conservative principles to address issues impacting them. Nationally, and at local levels they have to introduce legislation advocating minority business development and resources to implement inner-city enterprise zones and micro-loan programs. Republicans should take the initiative to help in our cities and tackle issues among Blacks that Democrats have ignored for decades.
The Republicans have little time to lose if they want to remain relevant in politics. It’s imperative they discard old practices and start to make solid and lasting political inroads among African-American voters. Some recent high-profile Republican gestures toward Blacks include the Speaker of the House’s hosting dedication of Frederick Douglass’ statue in the Capitol Hill Rotunda. The statue’s unveiling was followed by Republicans’ release of a video by Sen. Tim Scott extolling Douglass civic and political leadership on behalf of Blacks. And, RNC Chair Reince Priebus continued his “listening sessions” with community leaders in Cleveland, Ohio. Priebus said the Cleveland meeting was “part of the Party’s effort to grow and expand with different communities and groups.”
A strategic mistake Priebus’ made was not starting his conversations in Cleveland with the Call & Post, a Black newspaper. Over the years, from Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert Vann to Call & Post publisher Don King, Black newspaper publishers have been influential in Republican politics and outreach. Reince and the Republicans need to utilize the best and most-effective ways they can find to connect with the nation’s 11 million Black voters.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.