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Roderick Threats
by on August 12, 2019
276 views

90% of black Americans experience the following scenario every election cycle:

Just as the 2018 election cycle ramped up, I was replacing the sprinkler system in my front yard at my Salt Lake City area home when I noticed a large number of volunteers decked out for a certain GOP candidate T-shirts and all canvassing the neighborhood door to door, engaging residents and garnering support for the candidate. When my house was next in line, I stepped out of my trench and looked up at the group , they walked right past me without acknowledging me” RUDE! Returning to my irrigation installation, I watched as they proceeded to my neighbor’s house and deposited campaign materials at the front door. And then they made on about their way down the road.

It is irrefutable, however, that the GOP has a problem connecting with the black electorate. So this experience is demonstrative of the larger, lingering issue. It’s not that the party has tried and failed to bring in black voters; it’s that it has largely omitted them. The effect is the Republican cessation of the black vote to the Democrat party.

This is the current proviso of the black American electorate. The Republican party ignores it and the Democrat party takes it for granted.

 

GOP attempts at black outreach are contrary and repeatedly undone by inexpedient strategic communication choices and a basic insensitivity about the black experience in America. A comment from Jeb Bush’s saying that he would give African Americans “hope and aspiration” instead of bribing them with “free stuff” is a prime illustration. This tendency— one that casts the black electorate as a soulless and lackadaisical faction is up for sale to the highest bidder — is as pervasive among some Republicans as it is apocryphal.

But the good news: We’re approaching the 2020 presidential election, when blacks vote are higher than whites and are frustrated that neither party has paid suitable attention to their concerns. The votes of citizens infuriated with both parties are up for grabs. Without the first black president in the equation, an engaged black electorate is primed for a pitch from new folks in both camps. The Republican who is strong on substratum conservative principles as well as civil-rights protections will win the support of black voters at levels the party hasn’t seen in generations — he is the Bald Eagle Republican as I would like to dub it and introduce the term, more later in another article.

Everything the Republican party needs to know about the black American electorate is bound in this one axiom: When civil-rights protections are guaranteed, black Americans will vote in accordance with their varied economic and social interests.

This simple truism is mostly obscured by the party’s fundamental misinterpretation of black people and what motivates their voting decisions. Many Republicans have largely accepted, and even maintain, the false narrative that black Americans are beholden to the Democrat party because it supports them with "free stuff". Blacks’ overwhelming support of Democrats is assumed to be proof that the policy views of black voters are identical with those of the Democrat party. That assumption could not be more incorrect.

Following FDR’s New Deal and Truman’s desegregation of the military,the black electorate began drifting toward Democrats. In the ebb of lynchings of black Americans and Jim Crow laws depriving black citizens of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, blacks looked for a party to represent their rights. The Democrat party responded by leading on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a host of social programs that insulated black Americans from the capricious destructiveness that racial discrimination had unleashed on their lives. Once civil-rights protections are guaranteed, black Americans will feel free to vote in accordance with their varied economic and social interests.

Black voters remain true to the principles of civil-rights protections full stop; The stark diffraction of the black electorate is a function of the percieved evolution of the parties’ stances on civil-rights protections. Period. There is no smoke and mirrors here. For the past 150 years, history has shown, black political allegiance is not to a party but to individual rights and liberty. It really is this straightforward and simple. And this obsession with equality is uniquely and inherently American, arising from the same revolutionary spirit that established the nation.

The lesson for the GOP today can be found from the 1920s until the mid 1940s, when there was a contested black electorate. During that period, blacks’ party identification was evenly split between the parties. When black voters could not identify fundamental differences in the parties’ civil-rights policies, other issues drove their political support.

Republicans can win black votes by first understanding that the black experience in America demands reassurances that the individual rights and liberty of black Americans is not subject to political whims or electoral hoodwinking. To assume that the Constitution is the only guarantee that blacks need is to ignore history. The 14th Amendment, after all, did not prevent the “separate but equal” doctrine or statutory Jim Crow. It took a century for the nation to grant to blacks the citizenship rights that the Constitution had established.

That being the case, all that the GOP must do to win the sympathy of many black voters is affirm the importance of civil-rights protections, enshrined in the Constitution and numerous pieces of congressional legislation, and make no effort to undercut them. For blacks, “civil rights” is not a code switch for affirmative action, racial quotas, and unfettered handouts. Once the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt fully appreciates that, it will see just how simple it is to dismantle the wall between itself and black Americans.

The primacy of civil rights and individual rights for black voters has shrouded their other political concerns. Polls show that the issues most important to blacks, across a wide range of ages, incomes, and levels of education, are crime and the economy — unemployment, poverty, and health-care costs. But, as with all Americans, liberty and freedom is the highest priority. Because of the black experience in America, civil rights more heavily influence black voting behavior.

The black American electorate is the most active racial or ethnic voting group in the country. Its voter turnout as a percentage of the total black citizenry has jumped by more than 13 percentage points in the past quarter-century. (With distinction, white-voter turnout as a percentage of the total white citizenry has down-turned about 3 percentage points in the past 10 years.) In 2012, for the first time, black electorate turnout was higher than the white electorate.

Blacks over the age of 25 are the force. They are the only demographic that has grown in each election in the past quarter-century. Furthermore, more than half of blacks over 25 have some level of university, and almost a third are in mid-management or professional jobs.

Black Americans’ buying influence, a measure of disposable net income, is about $2.2 trillion, and black-household income has grown exponentially. Nearly one in five black homes earn $75,000 or more. a Nielsen reports that between 2000 and 2013, the aggregate income of all  black American households has increased by 45 percent. More than any other race or ethnicity, black Americans believe that the American dream is attainable with hard work.

This inconceivable success has been accompanied by the declining bloc of the black underclass. The black poverty rate is more than twice that of whites, and almost four in ten black children are growing up in poverty. Poor black families live in segregated neighborhoods, and their children attend de facto segregated schools, concentrating poverty and despair in one spot. Black unemployment still exists at a recession-levels in the inner cities, despite national unemployment rates of roughly 3 percent, meaning that blacks are unemployed at twice the rate of whites, as was the case when the March on Washington took place in 1963. Only 38 percent of black homes consist of two-parents. The median black family has only 6% of the wealth of the median white household.

Because poverty and criminality dominate the narrative about the black American experience, misconceptions persist. Black Americans have been pigeonholed as preferring a big government role in addressing their concerns. Through that optic, it appears that the Republican principles of hard work, individualism, personal responsibility, and self-determination would be unappealing to the typical black voter.

But the truth is that, more than any other race or ethnicity, black  Americans believe that the American dream is attainable with hard work, according to a poll by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. Any hope that the GOP has of attracting black voters hinges on its ability to substitute that truth for the typecast that blacks prefer to be dependent on government.

That there is growing socioeconomic inequality within black communities is confirmed by an ongoing research project conducted by Harvard and Yale. Investigating the significance of race and class in politics, they have found that racial segregation has decreased in metro areas but that class segregation has increased. Middle-class and affluent blacks have moved away from blacks living in poverty. With respect to social status — wages, work, housing, and schools — the black experience in America is more discordant than it was 50 years ago.

In short, there are now two renditions of black America — the haves and the have-nots. Harvard and Yale's research shows that, in 2013, black intra-group inequality was the highest in the nation. That has given rise to profound policy differences among blacks. University-educated blacks show less support for government, crime control, and spending on poverty programs and are more likely to believe that their voices are heard and heeded by government. While most blacks agree on policy priorities, their differing experiences have created a rift on the best method to address them. This is the tenured tension between conservatives and progressives.

On the whole, black Americans have begun to lean toward conservative principles regarding redistribution. A recent write up from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that black Americans are less supportive of racially targeted aid, increasingly likely to believe that economic outcomes can be attributed to hard work, and increasingly likely to oppose re-distributive programs. In plain terms, black Americans are increasingly coming to believe that the nation is a more equitable place than it once was and that race does not play as large a role in their economic lives as it once did.

Even affluent blacks, however, are aware that their socioeconomic position is questionable. A Harvard sociology professor William Julius Wilson noted in a article, though the unemployment gap between black and white college graduates was just over 1 percent before the 2008 recession, by 2013 the difference was 7.5 percent. Blacks, even the well educated, have unjustly borne the burden of the economic slowdowns. When the housing market plummeted , blacks were harmed most, as they watched a generation of wealth wash away along with respectable credit scores. This influenced their ability to refinance their homes, start small businesses, and even obtain PLUS Loans for their children’s college tuition.

All of that influences the decisions of black Americans about which party and which candidates to support. Though their individual journeys differ, race plays a significant role in how all blacks are perceived and treated by society, as UChicago professor Michael Dawson explained. Dawson presents the argument that race brings black voters together with the belief that one’s success is paramount on the success of the group as a whole — an idea colloquially known as “linked fate.” That belief motivates black Americans to subordinate personal policy preferences and individual economic interests to the liberties of all.

Affluent blacks’ move away from progressive policy could mean either that they have become less concerned with inequality (unlikely, on the linked-fate theory) or that they want to help the poor but are “losing faith in liberal and progressive strategies as the best means of doing so.” The latter interpretation is more than mere conjecture.

Black Americans engaged on this issue are split — some favor the conservative principle of the free-market and less regulation, and others, the progressive principle of a strong central government prioritizing environmental regulations over business profits. They are split because they have been parleyed by opposing factions — industry and the fed — and believe that their worries and solutions are being heard and considered. But the overarching concern about civil rights has overshadowed this natural intra-group tension.

Bald Eagle Republicans are the future of the party. They are the only candidates who will bring blacks and other minorities into the GOP in numbers sufficient to keep it competitive for decades to come. Bald Eagle Republicans embody and extend the party’s best traditions of inclusion, and can ease the fears and suspicions that some black Americans have of the party’s objectives. There should be nothing contentious or particularly unique about their proposals. History has shown, however, the mark of civil-rights protections spark tremendous debate.

Therefore, as being pro–civil rights has come to mean favoring redistribution of wealth based on race, the term “civil rights” has been commandeered. The current prevailing impression is that civil rights are incompatible with social and fiscal conservatism, small government, and personal responsibility. This is utterly wrong.

In truth, to be pro–civil rights means only to be in favor of equality with respect to the rights of citizenship extended to all Americans, regardless of race. Yes, some blacks support racial quotas, reparations, and redistribution. But those are not civil rights, and as detailed in the NBER report, blacks have significantly decreased their support for such aid relative to other respondents. The term “civil rights” must be wrested away from progressivism and nested in constitutionalism.

So the first job of Bald Eagle Republicans is to redefine the issue for the party’s base; then they must make the case to black Americans. Republicans have allowed themselves to be branded as uniquely intolerant, sometimes through their words and actions and other times through their choice to remain silent. The remedy is consistent and outspoken Bald Eagle Republicans who clearly speak out against those in the party who spout racially insensitive comments. For example, when Donald Trump said that blacks have no spirit, and when Bush said that blacks vote for whoever promises the most “free stuff,” Bald Eagle Republicans should immediately and forcefully condemn the remarks, without mincing words. A record of such public defenses of black Americans will provide a counter-narrative to the branding problem the GOP currently faces.

As a matter of policy, Bald Eagle Republicans should differ from the party’s current premise in one major respect: They should be attentive to ways in which existing and proposed policies disproportionately harm black Americans. For example, whites are more likely to sell drugs and as likely to use them, but blacks are far more likely to get arrested for drugs. Or consider voting rights. Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, many states have implemented new voter-id laws targeted at reducing voter fraud. As it turns out, many of these laws have made voting more difficult for many blacks. Bald Eagle Republicans should stress the importance of stemming the criminalization of black people and seek to prevent the displacement of blacks while still honoring the 10th amendment to allow the states to enact measures that reduce voter fraud, to the extent that it occurs.

Bald Eagle Republicans should also take aim at discordant impact. Though this concept is usually associated with housing policy, it applies in general to policies that are likely well intended but are, in their implementation, disproportionately harmful to minorities. Disparate impact lies at the heart of most black Americans’ policy concerns.

Blacks aren’t for affirmative action as much as they are for equal opportunity in all aspects of employment. Blacks aren’t for redistribution as much as they are for equal access to opportunities that will increase their social and economic status. Blacks aren’t for policies that are weak on crime as much as they are for a criminal-justice system that treats all Americans the same. So, to attract black voters, Bald Eagle Republicans don’t need to champion liberal policies, but only to ensure that conservative policies don’t leave blacks behind.

The GOP also have yet to take note of the other side of the coin — positive discordant impact, or auspicious impact. Just as it is imperative to examine where policy specifically fails blacks, attracting black voters will require calling to the attention of those conservative policies that help them. Criminal-justice reform, for example, is agnate with Republican values, as it promotes better use of taxpayer monies and curbs the cavalier state, and it inordinately benefits black Americans, who constitute a disproportionate share of the incarcerated population.

But, as important as reducing disparate impact and increasing propitious impact is, policy isn’t enough. Republicans should also seek opportunities to engage with black Americans.  To dispel the notion that the party is unconcerned about the black electorate, candidates and elected officials should meet with predominantly black audiences, large and small,.

Engagement is a two-way venture. It introduces black Americans to Republicans, and it familiarizes Republicans with black Americans at the grassroots level, dispelling against stereotypes. Each side’s showing up communicates a willingness to listen, learn, and find common ground. It also provides an opportunity to air grievances directly, rather than through the filter of the press or of mouthpieces who may not be truly representative of the party or the people. Only through honest conversations can someone discuss the nuances of policy and cut through the noise of rhetoric.

The GOP can achieve these goals through a pragmatic electoral strategy. A prudent increase in support among black voters in certain areas could deliver the victories the GOP needs in future elections. Five states will be particularly important: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in 2020.

The electoral strategy must not be limited to winning more black votes but should also demonstrate how conservative governance can produce better outcomes for black citizens. This is necessary because when black voters are dissatisfied with a Democratic candidate or especially pleased with a Republican candidate, their turnout decreases. Multiple studies show that black voters stay home because, though they might prefer the particular Republican candidate, they (out of loyalty to the Democrats) don’t want to vote against the Democratic candidate and (because some Republicans are insensitive on race) don’t want to vote Republican, on principle. This is something the Bald Eagle Republican has to bring to the forefront of the party's platform.

For every ten black voters who choose not to vote, the Democrat candidate loses nine votes, and the Republican only one, if we assume that those who stayed home would have broken for the Democrat in roughly the same proportion as the black vote breaks for Democratic candidates generally. When this effect is coupled with a Republican candidate who competes for the black vote more effectively than most Republicans do, the path to victory is eminent.

Moreover, GOP tactical cynicism, real or perceived, increases the black vote, and increases it for Democratic candidates. Consider North Carolina. It passed the Voter Identification and Verification Act, placing new restrictions on acceptable forms of identification, early-voting availability, and same-day registration. Many black voters assumed the aim of voter-ID laws to be the suppression of their vote, and, as a result, the 2014 midterm election saw the highest levels of black-voter participation in recent state history.

Regrettably, some GOP strategists prefer a different approach, arguing that simply increasing white-voter counts to 75 percent or higher would ensure victory for Republicans. Such an effort would amount to doubling down on Nixon’s infamous “southern” strategy in 1968, which alienated minority voters by appealing to white fears. We are seeing some of the markers of this strategy in today’s campaigns including presidential, with some candidates harshly criticizing Hispanic and Asian immigrants for coming to the United States to commit crimes and have “anchor babies,” while others broadly declare Islam to be incompatible with American values. There will soon be no minority group left for the party to alienate. Who’s next, the Irish?

The GOP will be far better off over the long term if it reclaims the mantle of duly enforced civil rights. To restate: That means speaking out against all racially disparaging remarks, calling out policies that have a distinct impact on minority voters, promoting policies that have a propitious impact, and executing a committed, focused engagement strategy. Taken up properly, these straightforward steps will change the way the party is perceived among the black electorate and increase its share of the black vote.

The gulf between the black American electorate and the Republican party is the result of a vicious cycle. Black voters are used to minimizing Republican candidates because Republicans are used to ignoring black voters, and vice versa. Both sides hear what they want to hear and rarely sit down to listen to each other. As with any other bad habit, this one can be broken only with resolve and determination.

Alas, the time and sociopolitical conditions are nearly ideal for the GOP to begin refashioning blacks’ vision of their party. Blacks are less than enamored with the current Democratic presidential candidates but primed to be electorally active at high levels. They are eager to have their votes appreciated and to be courted by both parties. They have begun expressing views that align with conservative principles and wish to elaborate on them once the basic questions of liberty, civil rights and individual rights no longer overshadow every other consideration. And they are increasingly exasperated by preconceived notions from both parties that they require governmental mothering to have a shot at success in America.

Bald Eagle Republicans who approach black voters with respect and sincerity can win not only their votes but also those of other minorities and of independents. Such Republicanism will be effervescent to the nation’s founding ideals of liberty and equality and will continue the work, begun by Lincoln, of making those ideals a reality. On the other hand, the GOP declines to take up the nation’s unfinished work, it will not only miss an opportunity to do what is right. It may sustain political injuries from which it will never recover.

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