The GOP and the black community: Great opportunities missed

Black America is increasingly dissatisfied with the Democrats, but the GOP has shown no ability to capitalize on that. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, January 1, 2014 — Juan Williams recently interviewed Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the RNC, and Orlando Watson, communications director for Black Media, about the alleged growing dissatisfaction of blacks towards the Democratic Party and what that means for the GOP.

Both Raffi Williams and Watson are young Black Americans who were hired with a special emphasis to winning black votes for the GOP.

In the interview with Juan Williams, they discussed whether the Democratic Party is losing support and whether the GOP will gain that support. The Democrats are, in fact, losing support from many Black Americans. Black Democratic voters are not happy with the Democratic Party’s same sex marriage agenda and the record level of unemployment among black workers. Most blacks support marriage protection, and most certainly desire a better quality of life economically.

That the masses of Black Americans will not support the GOP by default. They will either choose to be independent or won’t vote at all in 2014 and 2016.

The conversations taking place among GOP leaders and activists lay bare a number of profound problems. First, the RNC is trying to play the race politics game the Democrats play, but without the benefit of understanding culture. The issue is not about “black” as an ethnic identity, but the varying cultures within the black community, which is not monolithic. Without cultural competence, there is no understanding of how to shape messages and why.

The RNC continues to demonstrate that it is less interested in being culturally competent and accommodating minorities, and more interested in assimilating minorities for political purposes. The majority of the black talking heads who have been trotted out by the Republican Party have absolutely no roots in any black community; they have no record of service to the community they claim to be experts in “reaching out” to. Hence, they have no credibility.

Having black skin color doesn’t constitute having cultural competence or understanding the so called “Black Experience.” Barack Obama underlines that point. There are very few Black voters who will fall for the strategy of new black faces with the same old tired concept of assimilation over accommodation.

It is a vital mistake for the RNC to constantly depict itself as coming in on a white horse to save blacks from the Democratic Party. It is both insulting and hypocritical. On one hand, the GOP criticizes the Democrats for their “help,” and then claims it is going to “help”?

Frederick Douglass was right. We don’t need the help of any political party. The Parties need to serve the people.

The RNC would be better served investing the time to develop and cultivate strategic alliances in black communities. They can discover the ideas and experiences of the people in the community, discover the needs and interests of the voters and, so far as they are constitutionally sound, satisfy them. The Party can share its ideals in the process.

A partnership is win/win. Serving is a much better marketing message than helping, as the help of politicians got us in the mess we are in now.

When the RNC begins to talk about what it learning from the people it claims to be reaching out to, we can take that conversation seriously. Then it will be in a position to serve, not a moment before.

For now, the GOP uses the same condescending, race politics the Democrats use to exploit their constituents. They treat Black Americans as if we are a cog on a wheel or an inanimate object on a chess board.

Not very appealing at all.

In the final analysis, with unemployment, illiteracy, and poverty reaching record levels in many black communities, it is obvious that the level of distrust among blacks towards the Democratic Party is also increasing.

However, due to the lack of cultural competence, strategic alliances, and commitment to accommodation demonstrated by the Republican Party towards Black Americans, it is not likely that the GOP will benefit much from the dissatisfaction of blacks with the Democratic Party.

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Stacy Swimp

Stacy is a member of and a spokesperson for Project 21 - The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, a national speaker's bureau.  He is president of the Frederick Douglass Society, a public policy and education institution, and he is host of Contagious Transformation, a weekly conservative political commentary internet radio program.

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