Republicans To Black Voters: The Start Of A Conversation

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Guest Columnist: Dylan Diggs

Nearing the end of Black History Month, the Democratic presidential nomination contest is in a full enervating gallop towards South Carolina: the first opportunity for a significant black population, the party’s most loyal constituency, to vote in these contests.

However, if you look at the Democratic field, many of the candidates have near fatal flaws when it comes to appealing to persons of color:

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been pilloried for pushing gentrification that left communities of color subject to “the mercy of inflexible bureaucrats” without sufficient public input.[1]

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has a host of issues with minorities ranging from his support for stop-and-frisk and redlining to blaming people of color for the 2008 financial crisis (too many examples to footnote).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been criticized for an overzealous prosecutorial history when it came to young, black Americans.[2]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren used her nonexistent Native American ancestry to boost her career. No joke. She was listed as Harvard Law School’s first “woman of color” when many persons of color face barriers to entry in academia.[3]

With all this developing, my mind revisited a JHU News-Letter op-ed I wrote in February 2008:

“Perhaps the Democratic Party is not as racially inspired as the Democratic leadership espouses. Sure, blacks consistently vote Democratic, but that has turned to hurt black Americans more than help them. When 90 percent of blacks vote Democratic, much of the Democratic elite see blacks as an assured vote and thus realize they don’t have to do much to appease blacks.”[4]

The op-ed is almost evergreen.

While many black communities have come far in spite of structural dynamics, in some of the greatest Democratic urban strongholds, black communities remain ghettoized or face government corruption and gentrification.

 

I’m a black Republican, but today I’m not writing to highlight the Democrats’ hypocrisies. The history between Republicans and black voters is complicated enough. Instead I want to challenge Republicans to rethink how to expand the party beyond our traditional base. Rather than rehashing past disputes, gripes and grievances, Republicans need to start having the conversations about how conservative policies can provide solutions for black communities.

Let’s first acknowledge that black Americans are not a monolith. Yes, black voters are more religious than others, but black communities are also more middle class, suburban and upwardly mobile than ever before. These conversations will be hard, but due to that, they must start now because there is real promise.

Importantly, none of the suggested conversations below represent a betrayal of conservative ideals, or an attempt to pander to any population, but it rather requires a shift in articulation and application. To do so, here are some themes that have the potential to resonate:

Conservative solutions provide opportunities for social mobility. While still ensuring a social safety net, pro-growth policies can go beyond the current welfare state’s semi-clientelist approach that too often preserves the status quo.

Civil liberties are civil rights. We don’t have to go far back in our history to see government officials as among the main antagonists in black history. By protecting civil liberties, we can importantly protect all lives.

Criminal justice reform presents a lot of potential for conservatives and social justice advocates to expand on the bloomlets of a working relationship.

Countering the deterioration of our social bonds through a renewed commitment to traditional institutions, such as civil society, the private sector and the church, is critical to rebuilding our society. This is felt hard everywhere, but black and brown communities have been devastated by this impact for a long time.

Investing in the family is paramount. Conservative solutions that reduce the costs that face families and address some of the burdens of child care and parental leave can help strengthen the modern family.

In current American politics, there has been too much of an emphasis on party purity. Republicans must be open to a diversity of thought. For a movement to welcome people of color, who have not been traditionally a part of its coalition, we must recognize that they will bring in different backgrounds and perspectives. It’s not a threat, it’s an opportunity that will help the party grow and resonate further.

If Republicans want to expand the party, we must first acknowledge that black voters have a real distrust of the Republican Party, for reasons real and perceived. A lot of it is the result of unforced errors. If Republicans think critically about how we operate, the tone and tenor of our politics, and the potential our party can provide, we can greatly expand the composition of our party and, more importantly, make a real difference.


[1] Gurley, Gabrielle. “African Americans Already Know Pete Buttigieg Very Well.” The American Prospect: https://prospect.org/civil-rights/african-americans-already-know-pete-buttigieg-very-well/

[2] Hensley-Clancy, Molly and Ruby Cramer. “Amy Klobuchar is Promising Iowa Voters Electability -But Has Almost No Black Support.” Buzzfeed.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/mollyhensleyclancy/amy-klobuchar-iowa-pete-buttigieg-black-voters-2020

[3] French, David. “Elizabeth Warren Progressive Fraud,” National Review. “https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/11/elizabeth-warren-native-american-heritage-harvard-fraud/

[4] Diggs, Dylan. “Black Americans Need Their Own Party. JHU News-Letter. https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2008/02/black-americans-need-their-own-party-65234

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