Former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich had advice for Republican candidates on Sunday’s Face the Nation:
The number one thing that Cameron did was emphasize working Britons. I’ll give you an example that’ll probably be controversial: A party which goes into places like Ferguson, Baltimore, and says, ‘It is the working African American who was hurt by the riot. It was the working, small-business African American and Latino American and Asian American who was hurt by the riot. Somebody ought to stand up for the people who are trying to create a decent future.’ That party’s going to start a debate that’s really important for this country, between those who want to work and those who want to disrupt and destroy, and I think that’s a very important debate for the next year.
Baltimore is an excellent target. I lived in Maryland for four years, and took regular trips up north to Baltimore — to visit the Inner Harbor, or to catch an Orioles game. It is not just Sandtown that is derelict. The area immediately adjacent to Camden Yards and the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium (downtown, blocks from the Inner Harbor) is one of boarded shops, smashed windows, and omnipresent graffiti. The Inner Harbor itself is lovely — but walk a few blocks in either direction, and the “rejuvenation” dries up entirely.
It is no coincidence that a city that has been losing population and jobs for decades has been governed by Democrats since 1967.
Meanwhile, nearby Ellicott City, a western suburb of Baltimore, has been consistently ranked by Money magazine over the past decade as one of the “20 Best Places to Live in the United States.” Ellicott City is the seat of Howard County, which is regularly found to have the state’s best schools. The government of the county, unlike that of Baltimore City, has been balanced between Republicans and Democrats over the past 40 years, and its Democrats have not aggressively chased business out of the area — as Democratic mayors in Baltimore have done.
Republicans are better-suited in this election cycle than perhaps ever before to go to traditionally Democratic communities and deliver a new, hopeful message. Paul Ryan made a brief attempt in 2012 when he visited inner-city Philadelphia, but the effort was not sustained. Rand Paul has made inroads with the NAACP, but often has been more pandering than persuasive. Why does Marco Rubio, or Scott Walker, or any other candidate not spend a week in Baltimore? In this not-your-grandpa’s Republican field, candidates can offer fresh faces — and fresh perspectives — to precincts that have not heard directly from a Republican in years.
And many communities may be open to it. In South Carolina, the African-American Chamber of Commerce recently announced that, while “it’s no secret that African Americans almost always vote Democratic,” it wants black voters in 2016 to “keep an open mind.”
“In South Carolina we have the first minority and female governor in the state,” Stephen Gilchrist, president of the Chamber, said. “We also have in the state the first black Senator since Reconstruction. Those are some very significant firsts on the Republican side of the aisle that African Americans can no longer just stay silent about.”
One suspects that other communities, too, are inclined to open their minds to the other side of the ballot. A failure to reach out to these communities will be not just a failure of political strategy, but of vision.