‘What have the Democrats done for you lately?”
Republicans should start asking black Americans that question — early and often. Doing so could become the GOP’s secret weapon.
As Republicans regroup after presidential and Senate campaigns that they should have won easily last November, they should seek votes among the 41 million black Americans whom Democrats take for granted, and Republicans lately have written off. Here’s why engaging black voters could revitalize the GOP.
Republicans need not win the black vote, or even a third of it. Securing 15 percent of the black electorate severely erodes the stalwart-Democrat base. If 20 to 25 percent of blacks vote GOP, it’s curtains for Democrats.
If Republicans seek black votes, they will win some. As the Republican National Committee’s recent autopsy of the 2012 election noted: “We are never going to win over voters who are not asked for their support.” The study lamented that black voters routinely back Democrats “without hearing anyone in their community making a case to the contrary.”
Campaigning among black voters would help Republicans stop resembling “stuffy, old white men,” as an RNC focus group described them. Listening to and speaking with black Americans refutes the notion that Republicans are just country-club Caucasians.
If Republicans largely campaign among white voters, Democrats will caricature them as racists who dislike or even hate blacks. That lie collapses when white GOP candidates shake black hands and kiss black babies. Doing so reassures nervous white voters that Republicans are not bigots, and it’s OK to support them.
Like Al Capone with a knife but no machine gun, Democrats would be badly disarmed without the race card. Denied the GOP = KKK meme, Democrats would have to double down on their phony “War on Women” and stoke class hatred even harder.
Bored by cautious, vanilla GOP nominees, Republicans and right-leaning independents likely would become electrified, knock on doors, populate phone banks, and cast ballots for Republicans who deploy this strategy. Mitt Romney contracted terminal shrunken-base syndrome. Had Romney visited black neighborhoods in Miami, Richmond, Cleveland, and Denver, unenthused conservatives would have become inspired and, at least, voted. That might have been Mitt’s margin of victory.
Such overtures to black voters surely would parallel appeals to other minorities. But even in a vacuum, such black-outreach efforts likely would increase support for Republicans among voters of Asian and Hispanic descent.
The Republican message should combine opportunity-related themes with historical facts about Democrats’ largely shameful record towards blacks (from stymieing Reconstruction to launching the Ku Klux Klan and filibustering federal anti-lynching legislation and the 1964 Civil Rights Act). Democrats’ treatment of blacks remains pitiful — e.g., celebrating the leadership of the late Senator Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), a former Exalted Cyclops of the KKK, until his 2010 death in office. There also is Obama’s defunding of the Washington, D.C., school-voucher program.
Republicans should cite these additional steps backward — by comparing these material conditions on January 20, 2009, the date of Obama’s first inauguration, with those on his second, last January 21: The rise of black unemployment (from 12.1 percent to 14.0 percent), an increase in poverty among blacks aged 18 to 64 (from 34.9 percent to 38.6 percent), and a fall in black median income (from $22,901 to $21,206).
Besides addressing the NAACP, Mitt Romney did little to win black votes. Nonetheless, against Obama, he won 6 percent of black voters, 50 percent more than Arizona Republican senator John McCain’s 4 percent in 2008.
What if Romney had fought for black votes? He barely lost several swing states. With mildly stronger black support and a modestly tighter embrace among decreasingly “nervous” whites and energized GOP-base voters, Romney could have delivered an Electoral College squeaker.
Based on ballot results and exit polls, here’s how Romney could have added at least 64 electoral votes to his actual 206 and advanced to the Oval Office.
• Obama won Florida’s 29 electoral votes by 74,309 votes. To win the Sunshine State, Romney needed to swing just over half of that total, or 37,155 votes. Boosting Romney’s black support from 4 percent to 5 percent would have won him 11,106 votes. Lifting his white support from 61 percent to 61.5 percent would have won Romney 28,308 votes. These additional votes would have totaled 39,404 — enough to win Florida.
• Obama won Virginia’s 13 electoral votes by 149,298 votes. To take the Old Dominion, Romney needed to shift just over half of that amount, or 74,650 votes. Raising Romney’s black support from 6 percent to 9 percent would have yielded him 23,124 votes. Hiking his white support from 61 percent to 63 percent would have given Romney 53,962 votes. These additional votes would have totaled 77,086 — enough to win Virginia.