Black GOP Leaders Attempt to Engage Black Voters

Sen. Tim Scott could be a GOP vice presidential prospect in 2016.
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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Black voters have been safely in the Democratic column for nearly eight decades but that is not going to stop Republicans from trying to win their votes in 2016.

The Republicans control the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives as well as 31 out of the 50 state governorships. However, they want control of the White House in 2016 and some Republican leaders are turning to their Black party members to get advice on how to do that.

Ralph Chittams Sr., a Black Republican activist who lives in Ward 7, said that in order for his party to win Black votes next year, a straightforward approach is needed.

“Don’t lie to people and be honest about everything,” Chittams said he tells national GOP leaders. “People respect honesty. When you are honest, the people will decide and the party should not get caught up with what the political hacks and strategists are saying.”

Blacks supported the Republican Party from its inception in 1854 because of its strong anti-slavery leanings. The Black politicians during the Reconstruction Era were practically all Republicans.

After Reconstruction, Blacks continued to support Republican presidents in national elections.

The tide began to change to the Democrats when Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidency over Herbert Hoover in 1932. Blacks were attracted to Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and the activism on their behalf by his wife, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1956, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower was re-elected president with 39 percent of the Black vote and in 1960, his vice president, Richard M. Nixon, received a respectable 32 percent in his losing presidential effort.

No Republican presidential nominee has received that level of Black support since, because of The Southern Strategy, invoked by Nixon in 1968, to get the White vote.

There have been positive developments for Republicans seeking Black support in recent years. In 2004, President George W. Bush won 16 percent of the Black vote in Ohio and that gave him four more years in the White House against Sen. John Kerry (D).

In 2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) won reelection with 21 percent of the Blacks voting for him, a landmark considering that the state is considered one of the most Democratic in the country.

In 2014, Ohio John Kasich (R) won 26 percent of the Black vote in his race for re-election, with one out of every three Black men and one in four Black women voting for him.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is the Black member of his party in his chamber and the House has two Black Republicans: Reps. Will Hurd (Texas) and Mia Love (Utah).

Orlando Watson, in a CNN piece on Feb. 10, 2014, said that the Republican National Committee is hiring Black political operatives to work in minority neighborhoods.

“These efforts are critical because people, regardless of background, don’t always care what you know until they know you care,” he said.

Ron Moten, a resident of Ward 7 and a GOP activist, teamed up with the Jack Kemp Foundation on June 16 at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center at St. Elizabeths East Campus to talk about returning citizens and entrepreneurship opportunities. It is these types of programs, Moten said, that will attract more Blacks to the GOP.

“I explain to people that the Republican Party could have the solutions to many of the problems Blacks face,” he said. “I am in the community every day. It is not enough to show up in the community every once in a while or go to Howard University to make a speech and never come back.”

He said that Republicans “have to stop talking to the choir and get in the trenches to empower people.”

“Free enterprise can be used to help returning citizens and Black people prosper,” Moten said.

Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) spoke at Moten’s event about the benefits of entrepreneurship and its ability to life people out of poverty. When asked by the AFRO how Republicans can engage the Black community, he answered quickly.

“We need to go where we are not invited,” Young said. “We need to show up and listen and share your heart.”

Some political observers believe that putting a Black, such as Scott, as a vice presidential candidate on the 2016 GOP presidential ticket will get a lot of Black votes. Chittams doesn’t agree.

“I have grown to really, really like Tim Scott and he should stay right where he is,” he said. “He should not waste his time in a do-nothing position like vice president.”

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