Barack Obama is doing something that no politician has done in 50 years. He is making black voters politically relevant again. Blacks have been largely irrelevant to the political discussion for much of the last 50 years. Not that they haven’t been important on Election Day. On the contrary, the black vote has been very important on Election Day for decades. It’s the black voters who have been invisible.
The black vote has been relevant to the success of Democrats for years – without the black vote Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all would have lost, not to mention countless down ticket Democrats. Black voters… not so much. Why? Because they are taken for granted. Across the country, across economic lines, in almost any election, blacks vote for Democrats 85% of the time… or more! Black voters (as in the people themselves) are of little importance to Democrats because they understand that regardless of the policies the party puts forth, 85% of black votes will come down in the Democrat column.
For years Democrats simply had to ensure blacks voted, they didn’t actually have to compete for their votes. Democrats knew that if they just got out the black vote, it was theirs. The beauty of this for Democrats is that they didn’t have to worry about discussing policies that might actually help black voters, might improve their lives, might address issues important to them. No, all they had to do was paint their GOP opponents as racists who would somehow repeal various Civil Rights Acts and then the black vote would be delivered. Sound familiar?
And it’s easy to see why blacks have been so loyal to the Democrats over the last five decades. The education gap has disappeared. Black unemployment is equal to the general population. Crime is no longer a concern in Democrat strongholds like Detroit, Gary, and Baltimore. The poverty rate and out of wedlock rate for blacks are the lowest in a generation… Oh, wait, none of those things are true.
The $64,000 question is, what have black voters gotten in exchange for their loyalty to the Democrats. I’d argue, not much.
That is where Barack Obama comes in. By demonstrating with unparalleled clarity the absolute inability of the Democrat / progressive / liberal agenda to make the lives of citizens better, and indeed its penchant for making them worse, I believe he has finally done what the GOP could not: Break the Democrat’s monopoly on black voters.
This might sound oxymoronic, but I believe that Barack Obama may be the Moses who (accidentally) leads black voters to the Promised Land. In this case the Promised Land is not beyond some body of water, but rather it is the garden of success that can be built in their own communities.
And how is he doing that? By focusing the country’s attention on the feckless and, frankly, the pernicious nature of the liberal agenda he will have loosened the grip Democrats have on black voters. They, like so many others in the country will be asking themselves, is there something else, is there an alternative to these failed policies. Not that I imagine black voters will be jumping to the GOP in droves starting tomorrow. No, it will take time, but thanks to Barack Obama, conversations will begin.
The beauty of this is that unlike the Democrats, the GOP doesn’t need to pander to black voters with a platform built on racial grievances and a race based agenda. No, the GOP can focus on blacks as Americans as opposed to the the Democrat policy of focusing on blacks as blacks.
How can the GOP take advantage of the opportunity that Barack Obama has placed at their feet? By reaching out to black voters in places where they have rarely done so. They should buy advertising and pursue interviews on urban radio stations. They should advertise in magazines and various other media that target a black demographic. They should seek to bring their message to groups like the NAACP and the National Bar Association. Importantly, what I didn’t say was that they should change their message.
With the rise of the Tea Party influence, the GOP may finally be able to make inroads with black voters. Conservatives understand that government is the problem and not the solution to problems in America in general and in the black community (to the degree that such a thing exists) in particular.
By focusing on the notion of free market solutions to American problems, the GOP can make itself a viable alternative for black voters. School choice, vouchers and other kinds of education reform have the potential to help black families far more than virtually anything else in the country. Low taxes and reduced regulation are fundamental elements to inducing entrepreneurs and investors to take risks by starting new companies or by expanding existing ones, both of which entail the creation of jobs. With black unemployment 60% higher than the national average, such investments and jobs are particularly important to black voters.
This November, if history is any gauge, 85% of black votes will go to Democrats. Nonetheless, the GOP should not look at that as a lost constituency, but rather as an opportunity that represents 12% of the American population. Black Americans are more American than they are black – a black teenager in St. Louis or LA has much more in common with a white kid from Chicago or Seattle than he does with someone growing up in Liberia or South Africa. As such, the GOP should proactively reach out and make the argument that small government, low taxes and private enterprise are the foundation of success in America for everyone, including blacks stuck in the fog of Democrat / progressive failure. Straightforward discourse on policies that offer everyone the opportunity to succeed in the pursuit of the American dream. Now that’s real relevance.