Republicans Have a Historic Opportunity With Black Voters. Why Won't They Seize It? | Opinion

Black Americans are tired of being ignored. That's what we're talking about amongst ourselves in conversations across the country. We're tired of seeing the same people come into our neighborhoods every election cycle, scare us into voting for them, and then after we do, disappear and leave our communities in the same condition they found them.

We have been the Democratic Party's most loyal voting bloc since the 1960s. But in the years since then, many Black people have come to the realization that our relationship with the Democrats is one that can be best described as "abuse by neglect." People are ready for change. The question is, in a two party system, is the other party smart enough to bring in Black voters who currently feel politically homeless?

There's historic precedent for a realignment. Recall that after the Civil War, Black Americans were loyal to the Republican Party—the party of Lincoln. But the GOP proceeded to abuse that relationship, refusing to pursue civil rights. Black discontent rose, and the Great Migration brought many Black Americans to the north, where northern Democrats were at least in a shallow way less averse to the cause of the Black community. Though President Roosevelt's New Deal had only limited provisions for Black Americans compared to white Americans, others in the Democratic Party saw an opportunity in the disaffection many Blacks had with Republicans. The Democrats were already the party of the white working class. If they could peel off a significant chunk of Black Americans, they could be the majority party in America for a generation. And that's what they did.

It took time. Republicans still received 39 and 32 percent of the Black vote in the presidential elections of 1956 and 1960. Some of the most staunch supporters of segregation in the South were Democrats, which made that party repulsive to a lot of Black people. But when GOP nominee Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that dealt a fatal blow to the party's relationship with Black people, and no Republican presidential candidate has gotten more than 15 percent of the Black vote since.

But in the year 2022, Republicans have a historic opportunity to repeat history—this time, in reverse. It's now the Democrats who are taking Black votes for granted, and Black discontent is now aimed at the Left.

On issues from education to crime to COVID overreach, Black Americans are seeing their interests abandoned as a highly-educated progressive elite caters to itself at our expense. Slogans like "Defund the Police" were pushed as "racial justice" while being opposed by 81 percent of Black Americans. In the name of "racial equity," divisive curricula like critical race theory were introduced into politics and schools—while the public schools our children rely on were shut down and went online, sending Black children even further behind their white counterparts in learning loss. Violent crime is tearing apart our communities, yet liberals continue to elect district attorneys who refuse to prosecute criminals.

On nearly every issue that seems to matter to the Democratic leadership, Black voters are searching for our interests—and not finding them. Even Black elected Democrats are publicly challenging white progressives for their paternalism, their focus on "micro-aggressions" instead of the issues that Black people care about.

And it is now the Republicans who can—and should—capitalize.

Mccain addresses the 2008 NAACP
CINCINNATI - JULY 16: Attendees at the 99th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) listen as Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks at the Duke Energy Center July 16, 2008 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Scott Olson/Getty Images

After all, the Pew Research Center found last year that just 29 percent of African Americans self-identify as "liberal." Sixty-five percent defined themselves as conservative or moderate. It's pretty astonishing that the political party representing conservatives has little to nothing to say to a community that is two-thirds conservatives.

And when Republicans do have proposals that would resonate with us, when they do put agenda items on the table that could have real support in the Black community, they don't tell anybody. They don't run on those issues. They don't put real dollars behind informing voters that they support those issues.

A perfect example is educational equality. Many Black people have been supporters of school choice for decades. Surveys routinely find that higher shares of Black parents support charter schools, private school vouchers and education savings accounts.

You would think this would be a golden opportunity for the GOP, which is allegedly for school choice. And yet, we never hear about this common cause. I can't remember the last time a Republican came into my community to tell people that he or she would make sure they got their preference when it came to their children's education, a cause very close to the hearts of Black parents.

Why is that? What is the excuse for that? With the public schools abandoning disadvantaged children throughout the pandemic, now would be the perfect time to make this play. Yet you don't see it happening.

Then there's the Platinum Plan. Have you heard about it? Of course not. You probably have no idea that a month before the 2020 election, President Trump put out a plan that would have been transformational for the Black community. The plan would have created half a million new black businesses and over 3 million new jobs for the Black community. And it would have given Black businesses access to nearly half a trillion dollars in capital.

And yet, it was never given half a chance, by the campaign that produced it.

What is the point of putting good policy like that on the table if you're going to half-ass the promotion and implementation of it? It makes Black people think that you're not serious.

And why aren't we hearing Republican candidates for congress tout the Platinum Plan today? They make a big show of adopting Trump's other policies. Why not the one that would have revitalized our community?

Some Republicans do seem to get it. Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance told me that he sees an opportunity to go after working class Black and Hispanic voters, much in the same way that the Republican Party has successfully gone after working class white voters. "One of the things I think we have to do on the Republican side is... start to attract the Black and Latino working class into our coalition," Vance told me. "Because if we do that, and we serve those voters well, we could become the majority party in this country for a generation, if we see the opportunity."

Lee Weingart, a Republican candidate for County Executive in Cuyahoga County, Ohio is another one who gets it. Weingart, who could become the county's first Republican Executive, has as part of his agenda an explicit plan to close the loophole that allows government contractors to access hundreds of millions of dollars without having minority owned businesses at the table. And Senator Marco Rubio has also repeatedly challenged the GOP to move in this direction. After the 2020 election, he was clear that "the future of the [Republican] party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial working class coalition." And of course, there is no shortage of prominent Black conservative commentators who are not afraid to challenge the GOP to do more to reach out to Black Americans, people like Kira Davis, Jeff Charles, Lawrence Jones and Sonnie Johnson.

But the number of Republicans seizing this historic opportunity is vanishingly small. In many ways, the Republicans are still catering to their elites instead of expanding their working-class voters. As Vance put it to me, "a lot of [Republicans] say, 'We've really got to get back the country club set in the Republican Party,' and I say, at the end of the day, we're going to be a stronger party if we accept that the country club set maybe is never coming back but we acquire some of those Black and Hispanic working class voters into our coalition. Let the country club set go."

He's right. And those who think we're not open to hearing from someone with a real agenda for our community just isn't paying attention. You need only scroll through the comments section of any video featuring Vice President Kamala Harris to get a sense of how fed up we are with the assumption that we only support candidates we look like us.

Republicans need to take this opportunity to speak to Black voters. That also means they need to stop being so triggered by any conversation involving race. It is completely illogical to complain about "Democrat run cities" and then bristle when Black people raise concerns about systemic racism. When you deny the existence of institutionalized racism, you are giving a pass to the people who are in charge of the institutions that we are complaining about. And you shouldn't want to give them a pass—they're your political opponents! Instead, address the systemic issues, and show us how you're going to fix them.

The GOP has never had a better opportunity to make inroads with Black people than they do right now. The part has the same opportunity with Black people today that the Democrats seized in the FDR era. If the GOP can get out of its own way, Republican leaders will be uniquely positioned to become what the Democratic Party used to be: a multiethnic working class party representing a majority of the country.

Darvio Morrow is the CEO of the FCB Radio Network and co-host of The Outlaws Radio Show.

The views in this article are the writer's own.