By Albert Eisenberg for RealClearPolitics
Today, independents, suburbanites, and college-educated voters — Democrats’ Trump-era coalition — are souring on the Biden presidency. But where does this leave black voters, the party’s most stalwart base?
In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, a high-profile “Blexit” campaign, along with endorsements from cultural figures like Kanye West and Herschel Walker, promised to help Donald Trump and the Republican Party challenge Democrats’ generations-long dominance among black voters.
Though Republicans ultimately failed to mobilize widespread support from these voters, cracks did begin to show in Democrats’ hold on them. The GOP performed better among black voters (and all non-white voters) up and down the ticket — enough to flip numerous U.S. House seats won by female and minority candidates.
Now, for the first time in decades, as the party performs a necessary diversity revamp in its leadership and its outreach, it appears that black voters could be open to political change.
But are they really? I wanted to find out, so along with a Republican client in suburban Philadelphia’s Delaware County, which swung to the Democrats in 2019 after more than a century of Republican dominance, I gathered a dozen “swing” black voters for an in-depth, two-hour focus group to find out what they thought of Republicans, Democrats, and the issues affecting their lives.
The participants represented a range of suburban strivers from varied ages, backgrounds, and education levels. Almost all leaned Democrat, and with one exception had voted for Biden in 2020. But to be selected, they had to indicate a potential openness to supporting GOP candidates.
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In the rapidly diversifying suburbs, they represent Republican “reach voters” — those who, with the right message and right engagement, might swing for a specific candidate or cycle — and who, one day, could become reliable GOP supporters.
So what did we learn?
First, the Republican Party’s brand is very poor among the surveyed voters, who perceived widespread racism in the GOP. Moreover, they believe the party doesn’t understand the needs of the black community, which only adds to existing in-group pressure to vote Democrat.
We heard, repeatedly, that Republican interests were not the interests of black voters, and that Republicans don’t bother to show up in black communities.
Yet many black voters are moderate or conservative — a reality that white progressives and conservatives seem to forget. On educational issues, for example, half the room erupted at the idea of teachers instructing elementary school-aged children about sex and sexuality — particularly sexual orientation and transgenderism at a young age.
Such a strong reaction could place the GOP in a favorable position. As school boards nationwide pursue radical racial curricula, much of it animating white (and black) conservatives, a targeted focus on radical gender ideology could swing concerned parents or grandparents.
To properly identify these socially conservative voters, Republicans could start visiting black churches, meeting with clergy and engaging with congregants.
Republicans, though, have failed on their messaging — including on issues of crime and policing, which surprised us as we monitored the group from outside the room. Despite record increases in homicides in nearby Philadelphia, many participants insisted that the Democratic Party and its leadership did not support defunding the police.
Simply saying that Democrats want to “defund” law enforcement may work for the GOP base, but Republicans will have to prove it to these voters. Moreover, Republicans will have to support policies like funding de-escalation training and recruiting more diverse officers.
Our survey, however, offered one encouraging sign for the GOP. While several in the focus group stated that the GOP was the party of the rich and “big business,” they did give Republicans an edge on one of the most important issues they ranked: affordability and taxes.
Here, even the most vehemently progressive participant softened, saying she might support a Republican who could prove that he would help her family’s finances. A significantly rising inflation rate represents just one more opportunity for Republicans to reach black voters.
As the famed civil rights leader and conservative Bob Woodson has often said, “Democrats view black people as victims needing their help. Republicans view them as aliens.”
The voters we surveyed were regular people — parents and grandparents, homeowners and renters. They are not waging constant cultural battles. They are mostly loyal Democrats. But a number of them are testing that loyalty.
If Republicans want to win over these voters, they must not pass them over any longer. If the party establishment and its candidates can see their potential, too, this Democratic monolith may be shattered, and along with it will come a flood of change and a surge of new voters.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
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