Charlie Kirk Is Right About Black Voter Outreach, But He’s Missing Something

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

 

TPUSA Founder Charlie Kirk understands why the Republican Party should start taking black voters seriously. But will the former Party of Lincoln heed his advice? 

Kirk recently wrote an op-ed for Breitbart News titled: “Republican Outreach to Black Community Must Be New Year’s Resolution.” In the piece, he argued that the GOP must make outreach to black voters more of a priority in 2020 and beyond. He wrote about a recent conference in which black entrepreneurs gave some pointed feedback about the GOP’s efforts — or lack thereof — to reach black voters: 

“Not surprisingly, one of main themes that emerged from the gathering was how the attendees felt Republicans have a better message for the black community, but Democrats do a much better job of delivering messages. In most cases, they said, Republicans don’t even bother to try.”

Kirk then contrasts the failure of the GOP to engage with black voters to the efforts of President Donald Trump, who is actively courting them. He points out how even the left has taken notice of his outreach to the black community: 

“To put this achievement in proper perspective: Politico even published a recent story headlined ‘Trump shocks Black voters-by trying to get their votes.’ The piece opened by citing how the Trump campaign ran a full-page ad in the Westside Gazette, a paper that proclaims itself to be ‘Broward County’s oldest and largest African American owned-and-operated newspaper.’ Many wondered, ‘Why would he bother?’”

It makes sense that a news outlet like Politico would wonder why Trump would “bother” with trying to get black votes. After all, the Republican Party has failed to make a meaningful effort to win the support of this crucial voting black. Kirk points out that “Republicans have not made any inroads with the black community because they haven’t taken the time or made the efforts to do so.”

Kirk rightly identifies the reasons why the GOP has failed to earn black votes. The party has held to “long-assumed campaign axioms that should be tossed aside and burned in the trash heap of establishment Republican history.” 

Some of these axioms include the flawed notion that reaching out to black voters is akin to pandering, or engaging in “leftist identity politics.” A modicum of critical thinking would show that this assumption is erroneous; as Kirk points out, “Would a candidate use the same pitch to the rural farmer in Iowa as he or she would to the cosmopolitan in New York City? Of course not! This isn’t pandering; it’s politics, and the return of investment could be greater than any other dollars spent in 2020.”

But Kirk brings up a point that I’ve made many times. This isn’t just about Trump — it is about the GOP. When I write about or discuss the lack of outreach to the black community, I end up hearing all about what the president is doing. My response is that Trump’s outreach to black voters is a positive  — but this is bigger than him. 

Trump can only do so much at the federal level. As you know, it is the local politicians who have the biggest impact on the lives of everyday Americans. Moreover, he won’t be the president forever. So it is incumbent on the GOP to start making inroads at the local and state levels along with the federal. Kirk recognizes this, which is why he asks an essential question: “The real question is not about the president, but about other Republican politicians. Will they be willing to follow the president’s lead?”

I disagree with Kirk on several points regarding minority outreach, but he is spot on here. But will the Republican establishment be willing to emulate Trump’s efforts to reach black voters? Right now, it does not seem likely, which brings me to what I believe Kirk is missing. If the former Party of Lincoln is seemingly unwilling to attract a wider voting base, how can conservatives earn more influence with black voters? It seems that some are taking matters into their own hands. 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and an organization called the Empower America Project are working to promote conservative candidates who happen to be minorities and women. After existing for only six months, they have managed to get two candidates elected to local offices and they will be ramping up their efforts in 2020. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) who is retiring next year, is working with another organization with similar goals. 

The Empower America project seeks to elevate diverse candidates on the right by training them on messaging, campaigning, and other critical skills. These individuals will reach black voters by focusing on policy and face-to-face engagement rather than relying on the usual talking points. 

This is a critical initiative. Given the fact that the demographics of the nation are evolving, the party needs to expand its outreach efforts if they wish to remain a viable force in American politics. The GOP may or may not decide to work with groups like this to reach black voters. But it is abundantly clear that if they don’t adapt, it will cease to exist in any meaningful way. 

 

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