By Maria Paula
Republicans are riding high these days, in Virginia, and elsewhere. Virginia, which had become a reliably blue in the last decade or so, just elected its first Republican governor in a decade last November (Glenn Youngkin), its first black woman lieutenant governor (Winsome Sears), and its first Latino attorney general (Jason Miyares). And to seemingly increase those gains, the Republican National Committee is changing the narrative when it comes to black voters, who historically vote Democratic in mass. This February, all over the country, the RNC has been commemorating Black History Month by hosting more events in local community centers and speaking directly to would voters.–- be The RNC took Black History Month by storm with a historic TV ad buy touting the Grand Opportunity Party GOP also known as the Grand Old Par message of inclusion in a bid to connect with voters. ty. The party is sending a To better highlight this push, the LEGACY (LN) recently posed several questions to Paris Dennard (PD), RNC spokesperson, as well as a political and communications strategist a commentator. The questions and answers are below.
LN : The ‘face’ of black Republicans has changed over the last few years with the emergence of young black Republicans like Candace Owens, Diamond and Silk. While they are prominent and in the news cycle, it is mostly for what some deem ‘outrageous’ commentary, like saying COVID-19 is a scam. What effect do you see them having on the GOP and do they help or hinder the party in making inroads into black voters? Like the Black community, the Black Republican community is not monolithic in ideas, tactics, views, and styles. There is room for everyone in the GOP. I think Black Americans can separate commentators who share their personal thoughts, versus politicians or political operatives working for the GOP or a campaign and decide whom they want to identify with and listen to.
PD: I know young Black voters that have listened to commentaries from people like Candace Owens or have seen me on nontraditional media outlets for Republicans have said it cause them to do their own research into either conservatism or the Republican Party, which is a good thing. So, someone might listen to new Black conservative voices, and then see the work that we are doing at the Republican National Committee through our Black American Community Centers and appreciate the work that Senator Tim Scott is doing to support school choice and HBCUs. This is motivating more black Americans to vote for a Republican, or at least be open to listening to what Republicans stand for. LN : Can you share why we don’t see a great deal of condemnation coming from black Republicans when prominent white Republicans make statements that are considered racially divisive/offensive and have to be clarified? An example is McConnell recently responding, “In a recent survey, 94% of Americans thought it was easy to vote. This is not a problem. Turn out is up.” when asked what his message was to voters of color who we re concerned they would not be able to vote in the midterms if Congress failed to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
PD : Leader McConnell was right. Polls show that the majority of Black Americans support showing an ID to vote. Turnout was up, and laws passed in states like Georgia to ensure that it is harder to cheat but easier to vote are not attacks on the right to vote. What is interesting is that there was no widespread condemnation from liberal Black organizations for places like New York trying to give not everyone who fought, U.S. citizens the right to vote. That is insulting to led, and died for us to have the right to vote. I just wrote about this falsehood on voting rights for blacks being under attack in my column for a Black Newspaper in North Carolina. Pushing black people to believe the lie that is their right to vote under siege is a manufactured scare tactic that Democrats are employing.
LN: Does the outrage to what could easily have been a slip of the tongue in the example above equate to media spin? Why or why not?
PD: The same question could be posed to black liber als and black organizations like the NAACP, NAN, and NUL when Democrats like President Biden or Senator Dick Durbin says things that are raciallydivisive/offensive and have to be clarified. Moreover, there is no outcry when Democrats push policies like blocking school choice, defunding the police, and mandates that discriminate and hurt Black Americans. Like the DC Mayor’s vaccine mandate that blocked nearly 50% of Black DC residents from indoor establishments, for example.
LN : Many black voters that I h ave spoken with, in Virginia, particularly, seem to equate voting for Republicans to being race ‘sellout’s’. How does the GOP plan to overcome this, so the party can capture more consistent black voters?
PD : When Lt. Governor Winsome Sears was first elec ted to office as a Republican representing a majority black district, she moved into the community and lived in the rougher part of the district. She wanted to live with, and really understand the issues of the people she was representing. That is commitment, not a sellout. The media must do a better job at being objective and not allowing a false narrative to be written, aired, or promoted by pitting Black people against each other because we are on different sides of the political aisle. My Grandfather was my hero, and he was a staunch conservative Democrat. He told me that it was good that I was in the Republican Party, and that I should stay exactly where I was because he knew how I was raised, what my values were, and that I would work on the other side to make sure my community had representation. If you are not at the table, you are on the menu, so it is advantageous for us to not put all of our political eggs in one basket. You are not a sellout candidate that is out for voting your values. If the liking about doing things that will empower and uplift your community happens to be Republican, then you are not a sellout for voting for that person; you are a smart voter.
We should vote our values. The residents of majority /minority District 75 voted Black Democrat and voted in the Republican by a larger number, because they understood that he had a better plan for the communities. They chose to be represented by a Republican; they are not sellout the
LN: Corey Fields, author of ‘Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans’, notes that the Republican Party has come to be actively perceived as a threat to black people and black political interests. What is your response to that statement?
PD : The liberal media has done a good job at pushing this false narrative about the GOP, our history, and our commitment to the Black community. Republicans founded the NAACP and many HBCUs. We are the party that stood up for the 13th Amendment and made the abolition of slavery a reality. We are a pro-life party that believes in the sanctity of marriage. We stand for safer communities by supporting the diverse men and women who serve in law enforcement. We stand for lower taxes, creating more U.S. jobs, and eliminating economic barriers to entry for small businesses. So, the party that created the Minority Business Development Agency, Opportunity Zones, permanently funded HBCUs, and stands for school choice, charter schools, and criminal justice reform is not a threat to Black Americans, our policies show that.
LN : How difficult do you think it will be to tear black voters away from the Democratic Party over to the GOP? And how ready is the party in tackling this?
PD : Under the leadership of Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee is committed to a longterm, wholistic minority engagement strategy to have a sustained presence in, and with the Black community. This will help us win more elections and see more Black republicans elected to office. Today, there are over 100 Black Republicans running for office across the country. Gov. Glenn Youngkin got the endorsement of the Hampton Roads Black Caucus, was praised heavily by former Gov. Douglas Wilder, and received 13% of the Black vote. Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears got 17% of the black vote. President Trump increased his voter share from Black Americans, and even doubled his support with Black women in the last election, so we are seeing the results not just in the polls but at the ballot box. The change from black Americans moving from the GOP to the Democrats did not happen overnight and the change back won’t either. Nonetheless, we are seeing a shift happening away from the Democratic Party because their policies are not working. They are hurting people, as well as coming up short. The RNC is listening, responding, and engaging with Black communities all over the country. They are advertising in Blackowned newspapers and TV stations, and are willing to make the case to earn the vote from the Black community.