Empower America Director Explains How Conservatives Can Reach Black Voters


If you want to earn votes, you have to talk to the people. This is a concept that the GOP doesn’t seem to understand when it comes to earning the votes of black Americans. 


Fortunately, Jimmy Kemp, the executive director of the Empower America Project, knows all too well that one of the main reasons why the Republican Party has failed to move the needle when it comes to earning black votes at the local, state, and federal level is that they are not actively courting black voters. 

One of the most common questions I am asked when discussing the failure of the GOP to reach out to black voters is: “How should Republicans engage with the black community?” 

It’s a valid question, one which I have discussed on several occasions, so I thought it might be beneficial to speak with someone who leads an organization committed to helping conservative candidates bridge the gap between the movement and minority Americans. RedState spoke with Kemp to get his thoughts on how the former Party of Lincoln can convince blacks and other minorities to support conservative candidates.

When describing the purpose of the organization, Kemp, who co-founded the group with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) explained:

“Our mission is to identify, train and invest in women and minority leaders who have basically a traditional American dream world view. We believe that the American idea is alive and well. And there have always been huge challenges for the world and our country to face. But America has been the place for people to face the challenges of humanity in a free environment, and that’s what we want to preserve and advance.”


When it comes to reaching black voters, Kemp’s advice was simple: “They’ve got to show up. And if you show up, if you’re a person of goodwill and character, and you want to be a part of the solution, the only way to be a part of the solution is to better understand the problem, you can understand the problem if you don’t show up.”

But the question is: How should Republican candidates show up? What should they do when interacting with the community? With whom should they be having conversations? Kemp stressed that the key is to connect with the people who are already working to affect positive change in the community:

“You know, I think you’ve got to go in and you’ve got to talk to principals of schools, you got to get to know some teachers, you got to get some know some coaches, you got to get to know, pastors and rabbis, and imams and you know, you got to understand the religious community, you’ve got to understand, you know, the sports world, you’ve got to understand the social organizations that are in the communities.” 

In other words, conservative candidates in minority districts must get to know the leaders in their communities. But Kemp also stated that a candidate must discern which type of individuals they should connect with. He emphasized the importance of speaking to the right types of people — those who have a balanced perspective. He insisted that candidates must dialogue with, “people who have a good perspective, who don’t believe that they can save the universe, nor do they believe that the universe is against only them.” 


According to Kemp, conservative candidates seeking office in minority neighborhoods should also engage with as many voters as possible. But it’s not about merely telling the people about your positions, it’s about finding out what issues the people deem to be important to their community. “If you’re running for office, you need to be knocking on all the doors in that specific district,” he said. “And you should be asking some good questions.” 

Instead of being afraid of being asked which party they are in, candidates should ask, “We might be in opposite parties, but what would you like to see from somebody in the other party?” 

The advice Kemp is giving is what the Empower America Project instills in the conservative minority candidates with whom they have partnered. Despite being only six months old, they already helped two conservative candidates win local elections last year. If the GOP wants to see more success in minority communities, it might do well to heed Kemp’s exhortation: 

“Show up, be accessible, and be able to clearly articulate why you’re there, and why your beliefs actually put you there, and why they compel you to listen and understand the problems that people are experiencing on the ground. And then you need to look for who’s already who’s already solving the problem.”


If the Republican Party heeds this advice, perhaps it can return to its roots as the Party of Lincoln. Kemp also explained in more detail what Empower America will do in 2020. This conversation will be covered in the next piece on the organization. Stay tuned!


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