By Jeff Charles
When President Trump addressed black voters by asking “What the hell do you have to lose?” he became the first Republican presidential candidate to reach out to the black community in a meaningful way since Ronald Reagan.
This overture to inner cities revealed an important reality. The GOP has been neglecting these areas for decades. But Trump’s willingness to speak to blacks and other minorities could potentially open a door in a way that many would not have thought possible.
Many on the conservative side have questioned why the GOP does not get more votes from minorities living in urban areas. Conservatives point out myriad statistics showing the prevalence of violence and poverty in these communities; they refer to leftist policies as the genesis of the malaise many in these cities experience. But this is not enough to win votes away from the Democrats.
GOP Must Channel Jack Kemp
President Reagan was not the only Republican politician to reach out to the inner city. Jack Kemp, who served as President George H.W. Bush’s Housing and Urban Development secretary, was adamant about improving conditions in the inner city.
One of the policies he championed were enterprise zones. In designated areas of a particular city, the government would offer deeply reduced taxes to encourage businesses to set up shop. In Newark, New Jersey, enterprise zones created jobs and brought other benefits as well. Even Democratic Senator Cory Booker praised Kemp’s approach. “It was a brilliant idea,” he told The New York Times. “It created at least 20,000 jobs, and there was a multiplier effect of financial benefits.”
Unfortunately, it appears that the GOP has largely abandoned outreach to urban neighborhoods.
It’s Not Enough
Democrats have retained power in urban areas by convincing minority constituents that they are helpless victims of racism. They offer government programs as solutions they claim will lift people out of poverty and crime, when in reality these policies keep the poor trapped in their current condition. In this way, Democrats sell poison by passing it off as the cure. But what are conservatives doing about it?
Right-wing news outlets cite statistics backing up their claim that leftist policies harm the ethnic minorities and the urban poor. Then, they sit back and naively wonder why minorities in these cities are not leaving some fictional “Democratic Plantation” and flocking to the Republican Party.
It may be correct to lay the woes of inner city residents at the feet of a Democratic Party that uses identity politics and victimhood to con their voters, but this is not enough to persuade people to support conservative leaders.
Quoting statistics is not a persuasive tactic; it does not present a compelling solution. Conservative podcaster James Cheef recently made a profound observation on The Wayne Dupree Show when he said, “They [Republicans] want to talk about us, but they don’t want to talk to us.”
Cheef was not accusing conservatives of being racists – he was pointing out that the right could make great progress in minority communities if they do more than tweet about these issues from afar. Instead, the GOP needs to dig in and start engaging with inner cities.
Why Doesn’t the GOP Reach Out?
When Ronald Reagan was the Republican presidential candidate, he actively courted the votes of inner-city dwellers. He visited with the National Urban League in New York. He sat down with prominent black magazines Ebony and Jet. He even spoke with – gasp – Jesse Jackson!
Unfortunately, since then, the GOP has withdrawn and surrendered the inner cities to the Democrats and their disastrous policies.
Out of the 25 largest cities in the United States, only three have Republican mayors; no Republicans in Congress represent urban districts. There are reasons for this beyond an urban population that is stubbornly democratic beyond reason.
Up until this point, the GOP has focused most of their attention on suburban and rural areas, eschewing the politics of the city. It’s understandable given the fact that these areas make up the majority of the conservative base. However, with the changing demographics and political attitudes, this will not be an effective long-term strategy.
Engaging with Inner Cities
If the GOP were to make inroads in urban communities, it would benefit the country, the residents of these areas, and the party itself.
The success of the Democrats is largely contingent on overwhelming support from black Americans and other minorities. This is the reason they are promoting open borders policies designed to import voters. It explains why they push to allow illegal immigrants to vote in local elections.
If the Republican Party manages to take away even a small percentage of the black vote from the Democrats, they will do tremendous damage to the left. Even The Washington Post acknowledged that “The black vote has become important enough to the Democratic party that a small drop in support could make a big difference.” But this does not only apply to blacks. Many Hispanics, Asians, and whites live in these areas – and they are dealing with the same difficulties.
This isn’t to say that the GOP needs to break bread with the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It does not mean we need to engage in the type of identity politics favored by the left. Conservatives are the group who want to see minorities become less dependent on the state; they believe these individuals can achieve success without government assistance. This is what makes them dangerous to the left, who thrive on the hardships of their supporters.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Change won’t happen overnight, and it will not be easy. After all, conservatives can’t expect to take inner city votes without a fight, can they?
But bringing conservatism to the inner cities is possible. It will take an investment of both time and resources, but in the end, it will be worth it.