When Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza assertively stated, “Black voters are out of reach for the GOP,” he provided good evidence for his case and rhetorically implored readers to prove him wrong. Could you prove him wrong? Can Republican presidential candidates effectively reach African American voters?
GOP Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson points to Governor Chris Christie’s somewhat successful African American voter stats, as well as Rand Paul’s recent appeal to black voters, something that Cillizza refers to as “courting.” She explains that “showing up” is one of the Republican Party’s best chances to appeal to more black voters. While Cillizza agrees that “showing up” is an important thing to prioritize, he argues that simply being present isn’t enough to swing votes. He cites markedly low percentages of African American votes going to Republican candidates in recent history, as well as the Party’s unsuccessful strategy.
Cillizza calls to mind Republican political strategist Kenneth Mehlman, who has tried to appeal to his own party, saying, “Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization,” of the party’s history of using race to appeal to white voters. During his time as chair for the National Republican Committee, Mehlman adamantly condemned this practice; he rubuked his fellow party members, “I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.” Even still, as Cillizza points out, Mehlman’s prioritization of African American outreach yielded little success back in the mid 2000s, and the GOP hasn’t effectively appealed to black voters since.
The Republican Party has an ugly track record of ignoring issues that would connect them to minority groups, favoring instead polarizing racial topics that help candidates earn the white vote. One thing that Cillizza and Anderson can agree on is that the policies of Republican candidates should be more inclusive of African American voters; simply showing up isn’t enough to earn the vote.
Can Republican candidates successfully reach African American voters? How do you weigh in?