In a National Review piece, one of my favorite political writers, Deroy Murdock, once commented that, “Republicans need not win the Black vote, or even a third of it. Securing 15 percent of the Black electorate severely erodes the stalwart-Democrat base. If 20 to 25 percent of Blacks vote GOP, it’s curtains for Democrats.”
This comment has stayed with me since, and I have used it often in my writing for AACONS. I think that if I was a political consultant for the Republican Party, the day I was told that by simply increasing the percentage of the Black vote won from 6% (which Romney got in 2012) to as little as 20% the GOP could guarantee itself victory in every national election, would be a very happy one for me. I would schedule all the candidates under my purview to as many events before a Black audience as possible, then go retire to some nice beach somewhere.
Certainly it can be done. I, like many, but most famously PBS host Tavis Smiley have observed, “Black folk, in the era of Obama, have lost ground in every major economic category.”
In fact, economic conditions for Blacks have regressed so much that if the President’s complexion more closely matched his mother’s rather than his father’s, Kanye West would be on TV saying Obama did not care for Black people.
As economist Peter Morici wrote for Fox.com:
On Mr. Obama’s watch, African-American family incomes are down by about $2,200, while those for Hispanics and Asian-Americans are up $800 and $2,100, respectively. The wealth gap with Whites has widened tremendously, and African-Americans have regained far fewer of the jobs lost in the Great Recession than other Americans. African-Americans are disproportionately saddled with student loans after dropping out of college after a few years or earning a degree that hardly imparts the skills necessary to earn a living. President Obama was elected on the promise to create greater economic justice but for African-Americans conditions have become decidedly worse.
As economic conditions for Blacks regress under Democratic leadership, the audience within the Black community who would be receptive to Republican policies should be expanding. How foolish is it then for Republicans to not attempt to reach them?
In 2014, AACONS’ Co-Founder and radio show moderator, Marie Stroughter, asked Newt Gingrich what advice he had for Republican candidates in 2016 to build upon the inroads into the Black vote some saw by the GOP that year.
I would say that every Republican candidate should look at what Governor John Kasich has done. Kasich from Ohio has gone into the community. I emphasize inclusion rather than outreach. Outreach is sitting on the outside waiting for someone in the meeting to call you. Inclusion is when you’re in the meeting. Kasich was endorsed by the largest African American newspaper in Ohio. He got 26% of the Black vote, probably the high water mark for the last 50 years for Ohio Republicans. He has continued to do it and he does it the old-fashioned way. He goes into the community. He sits down and works with people. He listens to small business owners. He listens to preachers. He listens to mothers and fathers. He is passionate about every American having their God given right to pursue happiness. He actually means it. .… As you well know, if we can get 26 – 40% of the African American vote in 2016 we would win the election decisively and it would be a historic moment. I believe Kasich has begun to figure out an approach that honest, that’s inclusive, that solves problems, and that people would pay attention to and respond to.
Yet, we are now in 2016 and see very little of the approach John Kasich used to such great success in Ohio being emulated at a national level by the GOP, and certainly not by the Trump campaign.
Donald Trump has, for example, turned down invitations to speak at the NAACP annual convention, and has further alienated Black voters by tweeting smears against Blacks, such as the claim that 81 percent of White homicide victims are killed by Blacks. His bizarre refusal to denounce KKK Grand Wizard David Duke on national television also still confuses many would-be Black Trump supporters — especially because he had denounced Duke not long prior. The Progressive media has put “Trump’s Racist Past” stories in such heavy rotation, it’s as if they were disc jockeys and these stories were the latest Adele single.
The recent GOP convention provides another illustrative example of the Republican Party’s increasing disregard for the Black vote. Out of 2,474 delegates, only 18 were Black. One can hardly be serious about obtaining 20% of the vote from 13% of the population when that population only represents 0.7 percent of your party’s delegates.
To put this number in perspective, let’s recall the famous Romney Christmas picture that was mocked on MSNBC because of how the one Black grandchild stood out while surrounded by 22 White grandchildren. A comedian even joked that the picture “really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC.” Not quite. For this picture to truly represent the diversity of the Republican Party (as evidenced by its delegates) Romney’s Black grandchild would have to be not one out of 23 White grandchildren, but rather one out of nearly 140.
It is worth noting that while the convention did feature several African American speakers such as Dr. Ben Carson, senatorial candidate Darryl Glenn, and Sheriff David Clarke, many others — such as Lt. Col. Allen West, who in my view rivals Dr. Thomas Sowell as the nation’s most prominent Black Conservative — were not invited to speak, or even asked to attend.
Even more infuriating to African American conservatives than the sparsity of Black delegates is the refusal of the Trump campaign to consider an African American vice-presidential pick. According to Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, “that would be viewed as pandering.”
Of course if Trump did “pander” by selecting an African American as his running mate, that person selected would hardly be the first running mate selected to pander to one group or the other. Most picks selected to be a running mate are done so in the hope that he or she would appeal to certain demographic, whether that demographic is determined by age, religion, or locality, or so on, down the list. In fact, Trump picked Governor Pence to be his running mate largely to pander to #NeverTrump conservatives.
Yet, though both parties pander to certain groups in their pick of running mates, when it comes to Blacks, many Republicans behave like a pretty high school girl who is still dateless a week before the prom, yet refuses to flirt with any potential escorts, thinking that everyone should recognize her cuteness, and, if anyone doesn’t, it’s their loss.
Besides, even if it was pandering, it would be a pretty good effort. To return to Allen West for a moment, as popular a ticket as Trump-Pence might be, a Trump-West may be as popular, or even more so.
Allen West is a brilliant speaker, has over two decades of military experience, two Master’s degrees, is a solid conservative, and was a Congressman from Florida where Trump is currently losing to Hillary Clinton. His selection would have undermined the Democratic strategy of portraying Trump as a racist, and would have likely increased Trump’s popularity among Blacks.
If Allen West was not considered to be Trump’s running mate because of the color of his skin, as I suspect based upon Manafort’s remark, it smacks of the worst kind of discrimination.
Of course no running mate or number of Black delegates is going to increase Donald Trump’s standing in the Black community without effort from Trump himself. Although we have seen very little such effort from him until now, his nomination speech at the GOP convention gave encouraging signs that he is moving in a positive direction.
Said Mr. Trump in his speech, “When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have the same right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?”
Such overtures may exemplify what Gingrich meant by outreach to Blacks rather than inclusion, but it sets a tone that many welcome from the Republican nominee.