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The GOP and Identity Politics in the Black Community

The Republican Party continues to miss the mark when it comes to engaging the Black community.

For those Republicans, who fastidiously claim they don’t believe in “identity politics (IP),” let me give you a piece of advice: Stop It!

Politically speaking, IP is a campaign that is based on the particular needs of a specific group of people that will give them the rationale or incentive to vote for your candidate.

For example, a Republican candidate would campaign in the Black community on issues like entrepreneurship, civil rights, voting rights, etc.; whereas the same candidate might campaign in the Hispanic community on issues like entrepreneurship, immigration, and cultural assimilation.

Far too many Republicans assert that “we are all Americans and all want the same things: jobs, education, safe neighborhoods, etc.” This is all true, but a ridiculously bland message when it comes to outreach in the Black community.

While core messaging should be a constant for all candidates, the way you communicate that message has to be crafted based on the audience you are addressing.

In business, we call this market segmentation. This is most often done with the S-T-P approach; which is segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Once you segment the voters, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc., you then create a targeted campaign to speak directly to each individual group; finally, you position your messaging in a way that will resonate with that group.

McDonald’s is a classic example.

Their objective is to sell their Big Macs to the American people, so their TV commercials are all trying to convince the country to buy their product, but they also are smart enough to use IP or market segmentation to achieve their stated objective—selling more hamburgers.

So, it makes all the sense in the world for McDonald’s to use Black actors when advertising on BET and Hispanic actors when advertising on Univision. This is the commercial application of identity politics.
When have you ever seen men selling women undergarments in Victoria Secrets commercials? That’s right, you haven’t.

Republicans have become so data driven that they no longer have any vision.

It’s not enough for Republicans to reflexively spout out buzz words and phrases like: “We are the big tent party”; “the party of Abraham Lincoln”; “We believe in lower taxes, smaller government, more individual freedom,” yada, yada, yada.

Republicans must first and foremost persuade Blacks that conservatism is not incompatible with civil rights, voting rights, and equal opportunity, but rather these issues are a fundamental part of conservatism.

Republicans must, by their actions, demonstrate that Black businesses tend to flourish when Republicans control the levers of government compared to when Democrats are in power.

I wrote about this, in 2012, in a piece I did for Black Enterprise. Democrats and the Obama Administration have done very little for Black-owned businesses over the last eight years.

Republicans have a huge opportunity to engage directly with the Black community on the specific issue of entrepreneurship. Not only are these Black businessmen fervent supporters of abolishing the capital gains tax, accelerated depreciation (writing off all capital purchases in year one), and lowering the corporate tax rate, but they also want to be relieved of all the onerous regulations imposed on them by Obama’s reign of terror on small and minority businesses.

According to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, “Black buying power is $ 1.2 trillion; which would make Black America the 15th largest economy in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).” That is equivalent to the size of Mexico.

Two years ago, the Aspen Institute and “The Atlantic” released a poll that was stunning. According to their poll, Blacks represent the largest group in the country that “believes that the American Dream is attainable with hard work.”

So, to those Republicans, who think that Blacks are just waiting for more government programs and more handouts, I say, you’re wrong.

The Black community is open for business and willing to engage with the Republican Party, but when will the party address the issues we are interested in, not the issues that they think we’re interested in?

We need access to capital, our fair share of government contracts, which is mandated by law, a seat at the decision-making table and input in to policies that affect the economy.

And what will the party get in return for doing business with the Black community? The party will see Blacks voting for Republicans in double digits. The party will see a growth in financial contributions from leading businessmen, who currently see absolutely no value in contributing to Republican campaigns or entities. The party will also get fresh perspectives and new ideas from the top thinkers in the Black community; who are also the “real” leaders within our community.

But most importantly, the party find that the Black community is already in sync with its business agenda; the GOP simply needs to extend a sincere invitation.

Come on Republicans. What in the hell do you have to lose?

Republicans must first and foremost persuade Blacks that conservatism is not incompatible with civil rights, voting rights, and equal opportunity.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Black Press USA.

The Eye, Ear, and Mind Principle

A few weeks ago I wrote a column titled, “Republican Presidential Candidates Lack Diversity.”  I called out Republican presidential campaigns for not having any Blacks on staff or as consultants.  I received several phone calls from various campaigns with them expressing their “disappointment” in my piece; they didn’t deny the facts of my piece, just the fact that I criticized Republicans.

These campaigns and the party, as usual, are missing the point.  While diversity within a presidential campaign is extremely important; the optics are even more important for 2016.  In the immortal words of my good friend John Travolta from the movie Swordfish, “What the eyes see, and the ears hear; the mind believes.”  I have dubbed this the eyes, ear, and mind principle (E.E.M.).

Can you name me one Black who has been publicly validated by the leaders of the Republican Party?  I am speaking in terms of a Black who is known and respected both in the Black community, as well as the White community; a Black who is well regarded in both communities simultaneous.

Have you seen one Black get out of the car or off the plane with any of our candidates for president?  Have you ever seen one Black with House Speaker John Boehner or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

Since Blacks are not seen in the party, nor heard in the party; it is understandable why in the mind of Blacks we believe there is no place in the Republican Party for us; the E.E.M. principle in effect.

Issues of race will be one of the top three issues going into next year’s elections and the Republican Party is totally unprepared to deal with anything with a racial component.  Look no further than the anemic response our presidential candidates have given to issues like Ferguson, Baltimore, or South Carolina.  How do you expect these campaigns to adequately respond to these issues when they have all White staffs, consultants, and pollsters?

The National Urban League’s annual convention last week provided a great teachable moment for Republicans; but I doubt very seriously that they will learn from it.

I have been telling Republicans for years that they should never attend or speak to any of the major Black organizations unless they are given certain concessions.  I am speaking about groups like the National Urban League, the NAACP, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), etc.

These Black groups are all very liberal in their orientation and rarely if ever have Black Republicans on any panels during their conventions.  So why would any Republican go there and give a speech, only to have the group’s members constantly criticize the Republican messages; if there are no Black Republicans on various panels to push back on this criticism then the speech is a total waste of time?

JEB Bush spoke at the Urban League’s conference last week only have Hillary Clinton thoroughly eviscerate Bush and Republicans and we had no one to refute Hillary’s bogus speech.  Bush’s speech said absolutely nothing of relevance to the audience or the Black community; and I can guarantee you that the speech was written by a white staffer with no input from any Blacks that understand communications and the Black community.  So Bush got what he deserved.

Republicans go to these groups simply out of fear.  They are terrified of being called a racist, so they go to these groups with hat in hand because they have no Blacks around them who are willing to take a hard line with these liberal Black groups.  If these groups refuse to have Black Republicans participate in their conferences, why would party leaders agree to speak?

The Black community is not hearing anything of any relevance to them from these presidential candidates specifically or the party in general.

If Blacks don’t see anything, or hear anything of relevance to us; then the mind will tell us Republicans don’t give a damn about our vote.

The Republican Party has a brand problem within the Black community and until they decide to deal with the eyes, ears, and mind they will never make any gains in our community.

Rand Paul deserves some credit for attempting to engage with the Black community, but his execution was horrible at best; incompetent at worst.

Isn’t it amazing that Republicans have done absolutely nothing to build relationships with the Black business community?

Not only are they an invaluable source for policy input; but they are also a great source for potential political contributions.

Even with the upcoming presidential debate on Thursday with FOX News, you have all white journalists asking the questions.  Why would FOX not at least have Kelly Wright (my fellow Oral Roberts alum) or Juan Williams as one of the questioners since they both work for FOX?

To my knowledge, I don’t think either party has ever had a journalist from a Black newspaper ever participate in a presidential debate.

Why?  There are over 200 Black newspapers in the U.S.  I hope the Republican Party will mandate a least one journalist from a Black newspaper be chosen to participate during one of the many upcoming Republican debates.

I will continue to write about these issues of diversity until the party finally begins to look like America.  But too often Republicans try to do the right thing; but they do it the wrong way.