Black Vote is Up for Grabs
By Raynard Jackson
I had separate conversations with two governors last week. Both were White, one was a Democrat and one was a Republican. We were discussing next month’s elections and what they each thought would happen. The amazing thing was their respective views on the Black community.
Democrats have convinced the Black community that they care about them and Republicans don’t. This lie has been allowed to take root because Republicans have been unwilling to refute this foolishness.
The Democratic governor thought the Democrats would retain the Senate because of the Black vote. He seemed stunned when I began asking him whether he had any Blacks in prominent powerful positions within his administration, meaning Blacks with budgetary authority, hiring authority, and the ability to get meetings on the governor’s schedule.
He replied that he had no Blacks in significant positions in his cabinet. He went onto explain that the positions I was talking about were very valuable and were very few in number. He stated that if the Blacks in his state didn’t demand certain positions, why would he give them up if he didn’t have to?
Wow, what honesty. Then, I began to push back with this governor. I asked did he have the same approach with his White supporters. He said, “Hmm, I never really thought about that. I just assume certain people [White] want or expect certain positions. It’s just expected.”
The Republican governor stated that, “Republicans have abetter message for the Black community, but we have just been God awful at communicating that message to the Black community.” He continued, “I never thought about the issue of Blacks in powerful positions; I just wanted to make sure my government was reflective of my state’s diversity.”
Score another point for candor. How revealing. I said to the governor that this tells me he doesn’t have any serious relationships with any Black Republican operatives who could have advised him on this issue. He didn’t disagree.
So, you have a White, liberal Democrat who is portrayed as someone who cares about the Black community and gets significant support from that community; but yet, he expects Blacks to beg to participate in the spoils of victory in any significant manner. In his mind, it’s just a given that he must reward White supporters with the spoils of victory.
Conversely, you have a White Republican who is portrayed as a non-caring racist who gets a nominal number of Black votes yet this governor actively seeks Blacks for his administration, albeit not for the power positions.
The perceptions don’t match the reality. This is why I get so frustrated that Republicans don’t build proper relationships within the Black community. Democrats are wonderful at the perception game, while Republicans are better on the substance side of the ledger.
Just as the Democrats seem to be happy with the perception that they are for the Black community, though this is not backed up by the facts, the Republicans seem to be happy accepting the notion that they will never get any significant support from the Black community, though this is not backed up by the facts.
I think both sides are foolish for their respective beliefs. Blacks are not as enamored with the Democrats as their party thinks and Blacks are not as hostile to the Republican Party as the GOP thinks.
Democrats find it hard to believe that Blacks are disillusioned with them because Blacks continue to give them their support without exacting anything in return. Republicans think Blacks are just so in love with the Democratic Party and are not worth fighting for.
Both parties are equally mistaken about the Black vote. No one knows with certainty what will happen on Election Day next month, but this one thing is for certain; every political pundit and analyst will be talking about the role of the Black vote in who ends up controlling the U.S. Senate.
If Democrats lose the Senate, they will say Black turnout was lower than needed. If Republicans don’t win the Senate, they will say their base (conservatives) didn’t turn out, thus the Black vote didn’t matter. If Democrats retain the Senate, they will say they got Blacks to turnout. If Republicans takeover the Senate, they will say they got evangelicals to turn out.
Both will have walked away with the wrong message. If Republicans had invested in the Black vote in Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana and Colorado, a lot of these close Senate races would have broken early for Republicans. When will Republicans in the House and Senate come to understand that the Black vote is up for grabs?
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, http://www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @raynard1223.