By Raynard Jackson
Last week’s midterm elections were historic. Republicans regained control of the U.S. Senate, increased their majority in the House, and expanded their majority among governors. While these gains were historic and impressive, there was a bigger story that no one is talking about.
According to early polling figures, Black participation in this year’s midterm was 12 percent, down slightly from 13 percent in 2010. Eighty-nine percent of Blacks voted for Democratic congressional candidates and 10 percent voted for Republicans. This year’s figures match the 2010 midterm figures for Democrats and represents a slight increase in support for Republicans, up from 9 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014.
In Illinois, incoming Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner received 6 percent of the Black vote. He actively courted the Black vote, but did it the wrong way. For example, how many people in Illinois know that Rauner has endowed a full professor’s chair at historically Black Morehouse College in Atlanta? There was no reason why he should not have earned upwards of 25 percent of the Black vote with his history in the Black community. But, as with many White Republicans, his White consultants and staff thought they knew more about the Black community than Blacks.
The exit polls further noted that 11 percent of Black millennials, 12 percent of Gen Xers, and 7 percent of those ages 45-64 voted Republican. The RNC, under the leadership of Reince Priebus, is the only Republican entity that “gets it” when it comes to the Black vote. The House and Senate campaign committees and the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) are still living in the dark ages when it comes to the Black community.
I know Republicans are still in love with this idiotic notion of being “colorblind,” but if they can’t look around at their staffs and realize that they are surrounded by Whites, then they have a real problem. Either they are truly colorblind or just blind to people of color.
So while last week’s national elections were historic for Republicans, they were not transformative. However, what happened in Ohio was not only transformative, but it was also a tectonic shift in the political landscape of America.
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich received 26 percent of the Black vote. He was endorsed by the Call & Post, Ohio’s leading Black newspaper. In their editorial of endorsement, they listed two specific examples of how Kasich addressed issues of concern to the Black community. Kasich expanded Medicaid coverage to low-income Ohioans and supported set-asides for minority contractors on the Opportunity Corridor construction project in Cleveland.
According to the newspaper, “Opportunities like the Opportunity Corridor usually means ‘inopportunity’ for us [the Black community]…Of the $267 million in construction contracts on the Corridor, Kasich set aside a staggering 20 percent for minority-owned and disadvantaged firms. That’s about $22.7 million dollars ‘specifically’ for Black-owned businesses, not to mention an additional half a million dollars thrown in for job training of area residents. And even this came with some maneuvering from him on our behalf with the federal government and Turnpike Board.”
Contrast that with Obama’s record of issuing fewer Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to Blacks than George W. Bush.
Ohio’s is home to the political story of the year.
So, to the House and Senate campaign committees and the RGA, now we have empirical data that shows Blacks will vote Republican if given a reason. But when GOP candidate continue to make racist insults or, in the case of Illinois governor-elect Bruce Rauner, fail to mention things they’ve done that will resonate with African Americans, the GOP will not attract Black voters who are disgruntled with the Democratic Party and looking for an alternative.
Obviously, left to their own devices, GOP candidates can’t do this on their own. That’s why they need to look beyond the White male consultant who offer bad advice on how to reach the Black community. I ask my Republican friends: When will you begin to hire Black consultants to cultivate this fertile movement in the Black community? When will you hire Blacks who are not ashamed of their Blackness for staff positions? When will you spend money with Black media buyers?
Republicans hire more Black Democrats to work their campaigns than they do Black Republicans. Years ago, I committed to never voting for or working with any Republican that didn’t have any Blacks on their staffs or as consultants; and I have made good on that commitment.
Republicans should make a public commitment to broaden their base to truly look like America. If Republicans transformed the way they interact with the Black community, especially by using Black Republicans and Black political operatives, that indeed would be both historic and transformational.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @raynard1223.