Raynard Jackson is fed up with how conservatives approach black Americans. The political strategist, columnist, and president and CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates says conservatives need to try something new, because while there’s a lot of shared values between conservatives and African Americans, that’s getting lost right now.
“Until Republicans … and the conservative movement deal with this issue of race, they will never ever get a massive amount of black support, period,” Jackson says. Read the lightly edited transcript, posted below, or listen on the podcast:
Rob Bluey: I’m joined by Raynard Jackson. He’s the president and CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, a great political strategist in Washington, D.C., and a longtime friend of our president, Kay Coles James, and The Heritage Foundation.
Raynard Jackson: Thank you, Rob. Thanks for inviting me.
Bluey: You and I got to know each other at a meeting that we both attended on Capitol Hill and the thing that I loved about you is you are always bringing new ideas to the table, particularly about how conservatives can do a better job of communicating and taking their ideas into the black community.
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You’ve written a piece for The Daily Signal about this. You recently had a meeting at the White House about this. So I’m hoping that we can spend some time here in this interview hearing some of your ideas and how conservatives can do a better job.
Jackson: I look forward to it. Thank you.
Bluey: So you write for The Daily Signal. Your first column that you’ve written for us says that the black community is naturally conservative. What do you mean by that?
Jackson: Within the black community, despite what the liberal media projects us to be, we are very conservative, very church-going. And I’m telling you even today, Rob, there is a strict sense of discipline in the black household, whether it’s a traditional family or a single parent. Black women, they don’t play with their kids. If you get out of line, you’re going to get spanked, period. And the black family is the key to the strength in the black community.
I remember when growing up as a kid, I would be sitting on my grandmother’s lap and she would sit up there and talk about what’s right, what’s wrong, what to do, what not to do, family history. And so when I was in college, I would come home on a weekend and my parents were fine with me going out with my fellows, hanging out at the club and all that stuff. But come Sunday morning, eight o’clock is like, “Boy, or are you ready for church?” Not, “Boy, are you going to church?” There was no option. So yeah, I could hang out all night, seven, eight in the morning if I want to, but come eight o’clock we going to church, period.
Bluey: I think those values that you get from having that belief in faith and going to a religious organization like a church [are] definitely in alignment with the traditional American values that conservatives seem to embrace.
Where do you see the challenge then that conservatives face in terms of breaking through and communicating to members of that community?
Jackson: Well, it’s very simple. When you say “conservative” to black folks, what we hear is “Strom Thurmond,” “Jesse Helms” back in the day. And for [the] audience who may not be familiar, … Strom Thurmond ran on a states rights, on the Dixiecrat ticket in 1948 for president. Jesse Helms was a senator of North Carolina. Strom Thurmond’s a senator from South Carolina, segregationist, racist, but both of them over a period of years, they kind of left that legacy and they became very supportive, for example, of historically black colleges, which you have several of them in South [Carolina] and North Carolina. But that’s what we hear.
So what I tell conservatives [is], as opposed to using the word “conservative,” a better term in a black community is “traditional values.” Because again, that transports you back when you were a little kid sitting on grandma’s lap. And that’s kind of a verbal nuance that conservatives need to understand.
Bluey: That’s a great point. Thank you for sharing that. But I want to ask you, because, historically, going back to Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party for its at least early history, was associated in many ways with the abolitionist movement and helping, obviously, to fight the Civil War and to give blacks and African Americans those rights. And then all of the sudden, today it’s the complete opposite.
So where did the Republican Party now, I’d separate that from conservative specifically, go wrong?
Jackson: No. 1, they decided to throw away the black vote in 1968 with the adoption by President [Richard] Nixon of the Southern strategy, which meant they decided that it was worth more for them to go after white Southern Democrats, the old Dixiecrat in the South, at the expense of the black community who had been the most loyal voting block up until that time for the Republican Party.
How blacks are today for the Democrats, we were that same type of loyalty to the Republicans back in the day. And even with that, Nixon got a third of the black vote. So until Republicans, Rob, and the conservative movement deal with this issue of race, they will never ever get a massive amount of black support, period.
Bluey: But you’re taking it head-on. You went to Florida. You worked for Gov. Ron DeSantis, then-candidate Ron DeSantis, and you made significant inroads, and really in that close election were able to, I think, make up the difference. So tell us what happened in Florida and how you were able to do that.
Jackson: Yeah. Gov. DeSantis is the good friend and when he was in congress last September, a year ago this month matter of fact, he called me after he became the nominee and asked me to come down and serve as one of his senior advisers, and of course I agreed to it.
He said, “hey, I want you to go and just do what you do. I know the kind of work you can do. And you let me know what you need from the campaign and we’re going to make sure we get it to you.”
We were polling at 2% of the black vote then. We ended up getting 17% of the black vote.
Jackson: The two issues that resonated were entrepreneurship and school choice and vouchers. And then our opponent, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee at the time, two of his campaign platforms were to raise taxes on small minority businesses and to get rid of the school choice voucher program in Florida. And … DeSantis said, “No, those are the two of my strongest points.” As a result of that, we got just enough black support that that was his margin of victory.
If we can replicate that across the country and within the conservative movement, blacks will support a conservative candidate, but no one goes into the community and asks for their support.
Bluey: More recently you were at the White House with a number of other black Americans who went to the press secretary, went to the vice president’s communications director and others and talked about the importance of making sure that the message is getting out.
I want to ask you two parts. I want to hear more about the meeting and why it was so significant. I understand that a meeting like this didn’t take place when President [Barack] Obama was in the White House. And secondly, I want to hear your assessment of President [Donald] Trump and his policies and how they have impacted the black community.
Jackson: Well, two interesting questions. The National Newspaper Publishers Association, [the] NNPA—that’s a consortium of the over 200 black newspapers in the country—their executive board was in town two weeks ago for some other meetings.
So, they have been complaining to me because they syndicate my weekly column to over these 200 newspapers about access to the administration. When their reporters are trying to do stories, they can’t get calls returned because no one knows who they are. And a lot of time, let’s face it, Rob, conservatives and Republicans, when they get a call from a black media outlet, their default position is going to be a hit piece. So, therefore, we don’t return their call, and that’s garbage.
I called the White House and me and Pastor Mark Burns, a close supporter of the president’s, and the White House, Stephanie Grisham, Hogan Gidley and Darin Miller from the vice president’s press office, they were so excited. They said, “Can we get a meeting with them this week while in town?” And we said, “Yeah.” And they moved heaven and earth on their schedule to sit and spend an hour with us to talk about what these newspaper publishers’ issues were, and we got a lot of work done. And that issue of access, they committed then that that would no longer be an issue.
Bluey: Let me make sure our listeners know you wrote about this meeting directly in LifeZette. I encourage our our listeners to check out a your piece. It’s called “Trump’s White House Does More for Black Media Members than Liberal Press Will Ever Tell You.” Also, Fred Lucas, our White House correspondent at The Daily Signal, covered the story as well. Its headline is, “Trump White House Pledges to Boost Outreach to Black Media Outlets.” So we encourage our listeners to check out both of those stories to learn more.
Tell me a little bit about the Trump administration and the policies. You and I got to know each other during the tax cut push back in 2017, of course that was a big initiative and the president’s first year. You help take that message to new communities. It’s obviously had a tremendous impact on the economy overall. We also see that black unemployment is at record lows. Is President Trump getting the credit that he deserves for the policies?
Jackson: Of course not. The liberal media is not going to do it for sure and within the black media—and we talked about this at the White House, and I was over there last week talking with them as well as a follow-up on some other issues. We, … the administration and Republicans and conservatives, we need to do a better job of effectively communicating the successful legislation that this administration has done that’s benefiting the black community.
This administration had done a lot to help the historically black colleges. The story has not been effectively told. And so then when the president goes to his town hall and rallies across the country and talks about the low unemployment in the black community, those are great statistics. But as I told the White House, we have to breathe life into those statistics, put meat on those bones, and we have to show the human face of those statistics and we have to start bringing out human faces and putting a face with those statistics.
And they want to have another conversation next week about what that means on a practical level. What I told them, for example, when the White House talks about the tax cuts in 2017 that we worked on, “Wouldn’t it be great for the president to have two or three black entrepreneurs to talk about how their firm has benefited from the tax cuts and as a result of those tax cuts, they’ve had to hire more people and how their revenues have increased as a result?” Now we got something to work with. We got a visual and we got the facts … Republicans and conservatives [are] great at statistics, horrible at weaving a story.
Bluey: Those sound like great stories that we’d like to tell at The Daily Signal. So let’s keep in touch about that. We’ve done several already about the tax cuts and I think that there are certainly more that have gone untold, so [I] would like to know more about them.
Now, we’ve talked about some of the economic pieces, obviously HBCUs is … another piece that you brought up. What are some of the other policies that you think President Trump might not be getting credit for that have had an impact positively on the black community?
Jackson: Oh, religious freedom. Not only just overseas, because that’s a big issue. Christians are being persecuted, for example, in Northern Nigeria, and no one talks about that. Boko Haram is there, and if they find out you are a Christian, they will put a car tire around your neck, set it on fire, and torture you. And they force little girls who say they’re Christian either to renounce their Christianity, [or] they rape them and then kill them. That’s going on right now.
And then domestically, a lot of black churches are very frustrated until President Trump comes along, because some of these churches are getting federal money, but then being told, “If you take federal money, you cannot talk about Christianity and faith because you took federal money.”
And President Trump has said, “No, we want you to take federal money if you’re impacting your local community. And we know that your success is predicated on your Christian faith and values instilling in those constituents you’re working with. So it’s foolish to deny you opportunity because of faith, because faith is the one that keeps these people off of drugs and out of being homeless. And so the federal government wants you to stop preaching the solution? Really?” And he’s getting a lot of credit for that in a black church. That story has not been told.
Bluey: That’s great to know.
The thing I love about your columns is that you’re very honest. You tell it like it is. You’re not afraid to pull punches and whatnot. And you’ve tackled some tough topics. You’re not afraid to call out people when you think that they’ve done something wrong.
So tell me, how do you approach writing your column and choosing the topics that you do? And what kind of feedback do you get when sometimes, maybe, you touched on a more controversial issue?
Jackson: Well, Rob, thanks a lot for helping me out with this. Good thing you’re not a publicist, man.
You know what’s funny is, and a lot of my clients are in music, because [I’ve] had to work a lot with R&B artists, and we’re in the studio talking and they are amazed that my writing is the same as they’re writing songs. There’s really no difference because a lot of times, I sit down at the keyboard, I may have in my mind I’m going to write about “subject matter A,” but then my fingers just kind of take a life of their own. And what I originally sat down to write about has nothing to do with what I just wrote.
So a lot of time, I just stream of consciousness and I have no idea what I’m going to write until I actually sit at the keyboard and I see the finished product.
And as I go back over some of the columns I’ve written, it’s like, that came out of you? I’m stunned. And so yeah, you’re right, Rob. I’ve been accused of being blunt and very honest, but I’m just at a point in life, Rob, where I just don’t have time to be all touchy-feely. If you ask me a question or if I take a position, everything I’ve ever written in the column, I believe. So it’s not like I’m writing for effect or to cause controversy. If I write it, I believe it, period.
… What’s amazing is I get so many emails saying, “I’m glad you said that.” … And I’ve had some people in the party, to be honest with you, Rob, called me and said, “Hey, if you toned down some of your writings, we can help you with more opportunity within the party.” And my response is, “My integrity is not for sale. My columns are for sale, but not my integrity.”
And yes, I probably have been denied some opportunities because of some of the bluntness in my column. But I challenge anyone who reads my column, Rob, to argue with me about the truthfulness of what I wrote.
Now, you may not like what I wrote, you may not like the verbiage I use, but you’re not going to argue with my facts. Those are true and they’re verifiable, and so, I’m willing to live with the consequences.
Bluey: It takes a lot of courage to have strong opinions, and I certainly appreciate sitting across from somebody who does and has the integrity to do that. So thank you.
I want to ask you about one of the recent ones because I found it so enlightening: “Donald Trump Is the Dennis Rodman of Politics.” Tell me how you came up with that.
Jackson: Wow. It’s funny. MSNBC was doing a slam piece on the president, as they usually do, and something popped on my computer screen about Dennis Rodman. And I like, that’s interesting. Donald Trump is the Dennis Robert of politics, meaning a lot of people think Dennis Rodman was crazy, he was a fool, he was a buffoon. But then when you stop to think about it, he was so good at what he did …
Jackson: Not one person in the NBA would have turned down the opportunity to have Dennis Rodman on their team. Dennis Rodman played for the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs and a few other teams.
… A lot of people had a problem with his antics off the court. Remember when he wore the wedding dress? Most people didn’t realize he got paid $10 million to wear that dress. You offer me that, Rob, I’m in a dress tonight. OK?
But the thing about it is, … he was named seven times in a row NBA player of the year. He was a rebound leader for seven to 10 years in a row. So when he got on the court, he delivered the goods.
So it is with President Trump. You may not like some of his tweets. You may not like how he responds to him being attacked by opponents. But if you go to war, you want him in the foxhole with you, because if you lose, the guy that won is going have blood all over them.
And that’s what conservatives like about this president. He fights for the conservative agenda. And so, with the president comes a lot of theatrics and drama, like Dennis Rodman. But there’s nobody privately who’s going to say, “I wouldn’t want this president on my side.” And that’s how I connected the two.
Bluey: That’s certainly true. … Raynard Jackson, you’re a Pulitzer Award-nominated columnist. You can find your most recent work at DailySignal.com. What haven’t we talked about that you’d like our listeners to know about you?
Jackson: Most people are shocked when they find I went to Oral Roberts University and I’m from St. Louis. … I used to work with Oral for four years, I used to be one of the camera men for the TV show, and he would always tell me, “Go into every man’s world and meet them at the point of their need.” And I’ve never forgotten that.
Any student there remembers that. They may forget their mother’s name, but they’re not going to forget that statement Oral Roberts used to say.
Back in the day, when I moved up here in the early ’90s, Rob, I would be walking down the street like on K Street, like K and 9th and 10th, 11th, 12th Street, which is all upscale now. Back in the day, you used to have prostitution and drug dealers and all that.
So I may be walking down the street with a friend and you would have prostitutes calling me by name. And my buddies would look at me like, “Whoa, these girls actually know your name? Are you patronizing?” I said, “Heck no.” But what I found interesting … go into every man’s world and meet them at the point of their need. I would go into the red light district where the prostitutes were. I just wanted to hear their story.
And you know what, Rob? Most of these women who were on the street corner were not dumb people. A lot of them had college degrees, but they fell on various levels of hard time and they did what they had to do to make it.
… I just found when you make choices, I don’t have to agree with your choice to … just sit down and talk with you, to find out what your story is. And a lot of them I ended up helping out. They transitioned to getting back on their feet.
But people tend to believe that if a person doesn’t agree with you somehow you should have nothing to do with them. And I’m just the opposite. And people are amazed when I walk into a Democrat event, which I go to a lot of them, and they’re like, “Wait a minute, I thought you were Republican?”
“Yeah, I am very Republican, but my buddy’s hosting this event, so I’m coming out to support him. I don’t agree with a doggone thing he’s saying politically, but he’s my buddy.”
Bluey: That is a theme it seems we keep touching on on this show and it’s really important for our listeners to remember, as you said, meet people where they are. You don’t necessarily have to agree with everything that they believe in. But there are a lot of things that we can do, particularly conservatives can do, to make inroads if we show up and engage in conversation.
Jackson: And see, Rob, it’s interesting you said [that.] This is the opportunity, I think, that this president, The Heritage Foundation, and the conservative movement all have in common, that black folks are allies already. But we just never get invited to the party, No. 1.
The other thing, and maybe we can talk about this at a future date, Rob, one thing conservatives really need to understand is, when they talk to the black community, they force us to make a Hobson’s choice. Meaning, they ask us, “Which are you? Are you black or are you Republican? Are you black or are you conservative?” As though you can’t be both.
So a lot of times, and I think you and I talked about this, sometimes Republicans and conservatives do and say things that we in the black community find offensive and we call them out on that. That doesn’t mean we’re not good party people and good conservatives, but we can’t have credibility in our community and try to ignore and justify an indignity done by someone in the movement.
A lot of times when I’ve criticized the party in my columns, like you indicated, I’ll get emails from influential people in the party, in the movement saying, “Well, we thought you were on our side and you criticize.” It’s like I don’t have to give up my blackness to be a part of the movement. I can be both, but wrong is wrong. And that doesn’t mean because I criticize my party that I’m not a good supporter.
The reason I stay in this party, Rob, when part of me tells me to leave this party because of some of the things we go through as blacks, the easy part would be for me to leave the party. The sign of a true leader is one who stands in the middle of difficulty and tries to make it better from within.
That’s why when a lot of my Democratic friends say, “Why do you not leave this party with the racist rhetoric coming out?” It’s like, yeah, that’s easy for me to do. And then what?
But if I stay engaged and keep speaking out using the media platform that I have, Rob, with The Daily Signal and The Heritage Foundation and other outlets, I can make change on the inside and make the movement and the party better for all of America. And that’s what my goal is.
Bluey: As a fellow American, I applaud you for taking the harder course and not the easier path because we really need you out there advocating for these ideas and … using media effectively. I think that that’s so important and that’s one of the reasons we created The Daily Signal and why [we are] so proud to have you as a new contributor to our team.
So, Raynard Jackson, how do our readers go and find more about you if they want to follow you on Twitter or social media or other places?
Jackson: Raynard1223 is my Twitter [handle]. Just Google me, all my social media pops up. Black Americans for a Better Future is my 527 super PAC, BAFBF.
Rob, thank you so much for having me. It’s been fun. And time has gone by too fast, but maybe you’ll have me back again over the next 30 or 40 years.
Bluey: We certainly will. Hopefully a lot sooner than that.
Raynard Jackson has been my guest. Thanks so much.
Jackson: Thanks, Rob.
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