How to attract black Republicans: 7 tips for Michael Steele
Since his election as the Republican National Committee’s first black chairman, one of Michael Steele’s goals has been to diversify the GOP.
He has banned the word “outreach” from the GOP lexicon – viewing it as an afterthought approach – but has been actively working to build ties with young and minority voters. A recent video where a black conservative blogger asked Steele about his plan to target diverse populations encapsulates the challenge.
As a moderate-conservative independent, I would advise Steele – and black Republicans in general – to do seven things to draw more blacks over the next three election cycles:
1. Lose the slang. There were black Republicans who were offended by Steele’s “fried chicken and potato salad” remark. They thought he wasn’t serious with the blogger’s question. Steele should stay focused on his core message.
2. Define Republicanism. Steele hedges on this issue, even though there are major fault lines between fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservatives. He claims there’s no litmus test. Yet, he cites that freedom, markets, and opportunity are the hallmarks of being a Republican. What’s the point of having a party platform if there’s no litmus test? For Steele to be a successful chairman, he needs to close the fault lines. If not, Sarah Palin – who steps down as Alaska’s governor on Sunday and whom some of my readers admire for her clearer demarcation from liberalism – may do so.
3. First things first: Steele should zero in on self-identified black conservatives (31.3% of Black America). He could target his fellow Catholics, who are likelier to be Republican than any other religious group in Black America. If Steele can’t persuade these folks, he can’t persuade broader Black America.
4. Develop an urban center-right agenda: Black Republican bloggers like Akindele Akinyemi write a lot about the need for the GOP to have an agenda that emphasizes economic development, job creation, school vouchers, defending black crime victims, and the War On Drugs.
5. Stay current. Quit talking about how the GOP fought against slavery and provided key votes for civil rights bills. Folks want to know about the Republican Party in 2009.
6. Take it to the streets. The GOP allows the Democratic Party to have a message monopoly, because it has no grassroots presence in black communities. That enables Democrats to define the party. There’s also a widespread black perception that the GOP is racist (reinforced by the Audra Shay/Young Republicans situation and a spook email). Black Republicans need to be vocal when such situations arise. They also need to do voter education between elections.
7. Hold Democrats accountable for results. As blogger Constructive Feedback regularly points out, the GOP should highlight that, in so many cities, everything is run by liberal Democrats, but yet there is little to no change for blacks. The GOP could target what he calls “black flight progressives”. These are black liberals who move to the suburbs – seeking to live among conservative whites whom they view as their opponents – to reap the benefits of conservative policies but haven’t accordingly shifted their politics after fleeing the results of liberal Democratic policies.
With these seven themes, the Republican Party would move down the path of building more black support for its policies and politics.