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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

GOP Effort to Woo Black Voters Doesn’t Change

May  28, 2010

Republican politicians for the life of them cannot figure out how to make inroads into the all-important Africian-American voting community.

Time after time they receive little over 5% of this vote in national presidential elections, and the results are usually lower in local and state elections. Black voters pull the straight Democrat lever, and have done so for years.

Most political historians attribute African-American loyalties to the Democratic Party to programs and policies that were instituted during the 1930s and 40s. There is also a perception among black voters that Democrats were somehow in the forefront of important civil rights milestones of the 1960s.

Prior to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the majority of African-Americans voted Republican, and as late as the 1960 presidential election, Richard Nixon received 32 percent of the black vote against John F. Kennedy.

Today, black voters are solidly in the Democrat column on all levels of electoral politics, with Republican candidates rarely receiving over 10 percent of the vote. There are exceptions, and certain Republican candidates do better among African-Americans, but they are just that – the exception.

Over the past 40 years, Democrats have successfully portrayed Republicans as favoring big business over regular voters.  They’ve also made the charge that Republicans are not in-tune with sympathies of black voters – namely in areas of civil rights, affirmative action, student aid, and all things that would otherwise benefit the black community.

This perception is a reality in the African-American community, and for that, black voters are not about to vote Republican anytime soon.

Yet, there is a tremendous opportunity for the GOP to gain support among black voters. Gaining a modest 20-25% of this voting bloc would be phenomenally prosperous to the Grand Old Party in terms of growing the party.

My own experience tells me that receiving support from the black community is just as easy, and just as hard, as it is to gain support from any other ethnic or sociological voting bloc. It’s all about appealing to individual voters, connecting with their concerns and issues, and reinforcing the commitment to work for their benefit, and on their behalf.

This is what I did during my own race for the state legislature, and I was able to secure overwhelming support from black voters. I received 100 percent of the votes in one black voting district, the first time that had ever happened in a campaign for the state legislature.

It’s important to remember that appealing to a voter, is a lot like appealing to your girlfriend/boyfriend, you have say it, and mean it, with your heart, not your head. Doing so makes the connection.

Remember though, in politics, as in a relationship, there are benefits to a lengthy courtship. Again, using the girlfriend/boyfriend analogy, both a candidate and the suitor must communicate often, and spend an enormous amount of personal time with the person/voters they are trying to woo.

Former Republican strategist par excellence Lee Atwater likened this process to a farmer growing a successful crop. The grower must first prepare the field by cultivating and plowing the ground, before planting the seed, and only then, will something grow, Atwater would say.

Republicans have not spent enough personal time courting local black voters, nor have they plowed the field, as Atwater suggested. Instead, Republican candidates have attempted to convince black voters that GOP ideas and philosophy is in their best interest, and while this may, or may not, be true, it’s not enough to sway their allegiance to vote Republican.

In a romance, if you don’t spend time with your significant other, there’s little chance for the relationship to change, and if a relationship doesn’t change, it dies.

Republican efforts to woo black voters have met this same fate.

Robb can be reached at Rbbaustin@aol.com)