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Sistermadly
12-25-2003, 10:56 PM
GOP Makes 'Top Priority' Of Converting Black Voters
Party Hopes Bush Focus on Minorities Can Win 25%

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 25, 2003; Page A04


It was a historic moment for the Grand Old Party: At the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, black conservatives took center stage, delivered speeches in prime time, raised their voices in a gospel choir and locked hands with the white men who, by an overwhelming majority, run the party.

By the end of the convention, the future national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, had emerged as black conservative stars, and a concerted effort by Republicans "to invent new black leaders" -- as former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) once put it -- was well underway.

Now, as the 2004 presidential election unfolds, Republicans want to convert that focus on black appointees into black votes. Their goal, they say, is to win 25 percent of the black vote, which the party has not come close to doing in nearly 30 years.

"If we get African American votes, [the Democrats] are in deep trouble," Gingrich said in a recent interview. In presidential elections, roughly nine of every 10 black votes are cast for Democrats.

To win hearts and minds, the GOP is planning a campaign featuring television and radio ads touting President Bush's reaching out to the African American community and elements of the Republican message that appeal to a wide swath of black voters, such as support for school vouchers.

"We have to make our case in media that African Americans listen to," Gingrich said. "It will be a much more intense effort . . . to reach out in advertising and education and systematic outreach. We have to realize the reality of [Black Entertainment Television] and radio stations that we are not used to being on."

Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said increasing his party's share of the black vote is "a top, top priority."

The party is looking into establishing chapters at historically black colleges and universities, he said. Gillespie recalled Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) telling him that the GOP should target black voters between 18 and 35 "because they are most likely to not identify as Democrats."

During a trip to Pittsburgh in July, Gillespie said, he met with Marc H. Morial, the new president of the National Urban League. While in Detroit last month, Gillespie said, he talked for two hours with editors at the Michigan Chronicle, one of the nation's few black daily newspapers. The party has arranged with American Urban Radio to broadcast a weekly message to the huge African American audience the network reaches.

Gillespie declined to specify how much the party will spend, saying he did not want the Democratic leadership to know. "But we're budgeting for it," he said.

At the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign headquarters in Arlington, spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said, "We are taking no vote for granted." The campaign, she said, will recruit minority voters through radio and television and the Internet. Castillo said she could not be more specific because the campaign is still developing.

Still, Democrats and some analysts said it is unlikely that Republicans can persuade African Americans to vote for President Bush and other conservatives next year.

"The Republican Party's problem with African Americans is that its leadership is mainly made up of white men from the South," said David A. Bositis, a researcher for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies here, a liberal African American think tank. "The black community has no trust in them."

Over the past 40 years, black voters have been wedded to the Democratic Party, whose leaders embraced the civil rights movement against southern segregation. The defection of southern whites from the Democratic Party helped transform the GOP.

But now, Republicans are echoing black Democrats such as strategist Donna Brazile and presidential aspirant Al Sharpton, who say their party has taken black voters' allegiance for granted. An RNC spokeswoman cited recent quotes from Sharpton, Brazile and others to make their case .

Nevertheless, no black critic of the Democratic Party has advocated switching to the Republican Party. Ron Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist who has written on conservative public policy and the black community, said black and white conservatives have no presence, and almost no respect, in the black community.

Among the 9,040 black elected officials counted in the Joint Center's Roster of Black Elected Officials, 50 are Republican and more than 3,700 are Democrats. A Joint Center spokeswoman said the others were elected in nonpartisan races, so the liberal-conservative disparity could be lesser or greater.

Conservative groups such as the Center for New Black Leadership and Black America's Political Action Committee, or BAMPAC, are optimistic about changing that.

This summer, BAMPAC released a poll showing that young African Americans are less likely to identify as Democrats, even though they continue to support liberal candidates. Those findings track with the results of an earlier poll by the Joint Center.

Younger black Americans, said Alvin Williams, BAMPAC's president and chief executive, "are potential swing votes for Republicans."

"I do think seeds are being planted," Williams said. "I believe in a few years, you could see the fruit, an increase in African American voting for Republicans."

In appointing Rice his national security adviser and Powell his secretary of state, Bush gave black officials a higher profile in his Cabinet than any other president. Bush has also nominated Janice Rogers Brown, a black California Supreme Court justice, to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, considered to be a steppingstone to the Supreme Court. But Senate Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus are fighting Brown's nomination.

"The core of the political leadership in the African American community has for a long time come from the left and had a very deep interest in maintaining a virtual monopoly on . . . the African American community," Gingrich said. "I think there's virtually no future in Republicans reaching out to that group."

In 1983, when he was a young congressman during the Reagan administration, Gingrich sparked a controversy when he said: "It is in the interest of the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan to invent new black leaders, so to speak. People who have a belief in discipline, hard work and patriotism, the kind of people who applauded Reagan's actions in [invading] Grenada." The idea still applies, he said.

In a recent interview, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) denounced Gingrich's statement as "patronizing and insulting to black people" then and now, and said such comments are "probably why Republicans get the bad results that they do" when they attempt to reach black voters.

Clyburn is one of the leaders in the Congressional Black Caucus who Gingrich believes Republicans should work around. Conservatives, Gingrich said, should reach out to younger, more moderate members of the caucus.

Rep. Denise L. Majette (D-Ga.) fits that description. She is 48 and moderate, and was a favorite of conservative white voters who crossed party lines to help her defeat then-Rep. Cynthia McKinney in a Democratic primary last year.

Black people should stop stereotyping conservatives and listen to what they have to say, Majette said. But she also said Republicans should embrace the leadership that "already exists."

Bush's tax cuts have benefited the wealthy, not black people, Majette said. The president also has not fully funded his No Child Left Behind education law, she noted, and has proposed far-reaching changes to the early childhood Head Start program, which many black parents rely on.

"You look at program after program, initiative after initiative, and you see that the Republican administration is not being faithful to the African American community," she said. "Their actions ought to speak louder than their words."

The GOP's standing among black voters was not helped last year when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) celebrated Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) by saying the nation would have been better off today had Thurmond been elected president in 1948, when he bolted from the Democratic Party and ran as a segregationist Dixiecrat.

But after Lott resigned his leadership post, black conservatives used the moment to seize a larger role in the party. After a series of meetings with the party leadership, black conservatives emerged with a promise of more involvement in the party and more funding. They in turn promised to seek more black votes.

One prominent black conservative, Harold Doley, who has served under five GOP presidents, envisaged a two-pronged drive: one engaging potential black voters on television and radio, and another sending appointed black leaders into the community

The potential of the push is an open question. Nearly half of black respondents in a Joint Center poll had almost no knowledge of one of the most prominent black Republicans, former representative J.C. Watts (Okla.), Bositis said. By comparison, 100 percent knew of Jesse L. Jackson, a former Democratic candidate for president, and 70 percent knew of Sharpton.



2003 The Washington Post Company

Rudey
12-26-2003, 12:13 AM
Politics is about cycles. Republican party history gives well to the acceptance of blacks. Democratic party history gives well to the acceptance of immigrants. When those inside a party decide to jump around to court votes, things change.

While most Muslims are against President Bush, most Muslims are Republicans. Hispanics are predicted to be the next large group to join the Republicans. Jewish voters have been courted heavily by Republicans and many have switched over since they are no longer "immigrants".

This has been going on forever. Carter pulled in Christian evangelicals and Reagan switched them over to be Republicans. Right now the Democratic party lays splintered and will be for a while. Statistically party power cycles every 40 years also - right now we're in the Republican power cycle.

-Rudey

Phasad1913
12-26-2003, 12:45 AM
They can forget about getting the "Black" vote...imo.

Sistermadly
12-26-2003, 10:26 PM
I disagree. If the Republican party is smart - and I think in some ways they're strategically smarter than the Democrats - they'll come up with a foolproof way to tap into the conservatism that exists among many African Americans.

Besides, we're not a monolithic people. I know more Black conservatives than white ones.

PhiPsiRuss
12-26-2003, 10:37 PM
African Americans are one of the most, if not the most, culturally conservative people in America. They are also the most politically liberal, but there are signs of fractures in the stronghold that the Democratic part has on African Americans.

There are some issues like school vouchers that resonate with blacks far more than they resonate with white Democrats.

The premise of this thread is very plausible, but tenuous. Many younger black professionals feel alienated from the Democratic party, but don't feel comfortable with the Republican party.

Munchkin03
12-26-2003, 10:44 PM
Originally posted by Sistermadly
I disagree. If the Republican party is smart - and I think in some ways they're strategically smarter than the Democrats - they'll come up with a foolproof way to tap into the conservatism that exists among many African Americans.

Besides, we're not a monolithic people. I know more Black conservatives than white ones.

True, true. There was an article in the Village Voice a few weeks ago, about the impact of Bush's Faith-Based initiatives on the African-American community--essentially how they were designed with Black pastors in mind. Not sure if I agree with it, but the right-wing could certainly emphasize two (what I see as) concerns: homosexuality and reproductive rights, and get more Black votes.

They're just not getting this one. :p I came from a culturally and politically liberal family, but I do count Republicans among some of my more conservative extended family members.

Phasad1913
12-27-2003, 01:59 AM
"The premise of this thread is very plausible, but tenuous. Many younger black professionals feel alienated from the Democratic party, but don't feel comfortable with the Republican party."


This was what I had in mind when I said that they can forget about getting the "Black" vote...at least right now. There are wounds that are too deep with regard to the republican party and the Civil Rights era, particularly the passing of the Civil Rights Act causing many democrats to flee to the republican party. While there are many conservative views that Black Americans identify with, and those views have been able to attract some to the party, many just don't feel comfortable enough to fully become members of the same party that is home to some of the most staunch racists in the nation.

Hopefully, in time, the common ideals that Americans have regardless of their colors with overshadow the resentment that is there from the past goings-on in this country. Til then....

enlightenment06
12-31-2003, 10:13 AM
yeah I think the GOP is missing the mark. I seriously thought about joining the republican party (actually I'm still on the college repub mailing list) but it's' going to take more than just a connection with conservative values to attract Black voters. As a young Black man in America I try to fight stereotypes, but the only thing I've gotten is stereotypical responses when I tried to reach out to the repubs. maybe the party leadership needs some Black history lessons and cultural sensitivity training.

sigtau305
12-31-2003, 10:40 AM
Originally posted by enlightenment06
yeah I think the GOP is missing the mark. I seriously thought about joining the republican party (actually I'm still on the college repub mailing list) but it's' going to take more than just a connection with conservative values to attract Black voters. As a young Black man in America I try to fight stereotypes, but the only thing I've gotten is stereotypical responses when I tried to reach out to the repubs. maybe the party leadership needs some Black history lessons and cultural sensitivity training.

Even with the training and History lessons, it still won't help. Young and Old African-Americans will continue to lean on the Democratic Party until the Republican Party learns to be more open and honest about their Agenda and how they can be more helpful towards the African-American community.

Sistermadly
12-31-2003, 12:01 PM
Originally posted by russellwarshay
Many younger black professionals feel alienated from the Democratic party, but don't feel comfortable with the Republican party.

Dang Russell, why'd you have to call me out like that? :D

KSigkid
01-01-2004, 09:18 PM
Originally posted by Rudey
Politics is about cycles. Republican party history gives well to the acceptance of blacks. Democratic party history gives well to the acceptance of immigrants. When those inside a party decide to jump around to court votes, things change.

While most Muslims are against President Bush, most Muslims are Republicans. Hispanics are predicted to be the next large group to join the Republicans. Jewish voters have been courted heavily by Republicans and many have switched over since they are no longer "immigrants".

This has been going on forever. Carter pulled in Christian evangelicals and Reagan switched them over to be Republicans. Right now the Democratic party lays splintered and will be for a while. Statistically party power cycles every 40 years also - right now we're in the Republican power cycle.

-Rudey

I think this is a very good assessment of the current situation - except I'd maybe argue that the Democratic party has been splintered since McGovern lost to Nixon in '72.

I agree with Sistermadly - the Republican party, strategically speaking, is leaps and bounds beyond the Democrats right now.