African-Americans were among the original advocates of the Republican Party after ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870. For at least 65 years—depending upon what part of the nation they resided—Blacks overwhelmingly voted for and supported republican candidates considered politically as fore-bearers of the “Party of Lincoln.”
That changed with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Like much of the nation, African-Americans had witnessed a shift within the GOP (beginning primarily in 1908 with the election of William Howard Taft) toward the desires of big business and the wealthy, and less on civil rights and societal uplift-two planks of political activism that originally attracted Blacks to the voting booth.
Beginning with the New Deal of the 1930s and extending through the Great Society of the 1960s, republicans have witnessed a near minuscule level of support from Blacks in local, statewide and national elections. A new generation of Black voters wants to change that narrative and is determined to shift the prevailing political mindset within their community.
‘Reintroducing’ Blacks to GOP
In California, they want to “reintroduce” African-Americans to the GOP by increasing the number of Black republicans holding statewide office, and also to inspire more Black Californians to “vote red.” California is the fourth “bluest” of the blue states in the country-and hosts the nation’s fifth largest Black population according to the 2010 U.S. Census-and these new republicans attest it’s time for a change.
“We’re Black first, then Republican,” said Corrin Rankin, a GOP strategist and delegate from the Bay Area. “We believe republican policies are more in line with our values as Black Americans than democrat policies. We believe in small government. We believe in limited regulation. We believe in low taxes.”
About a year ago at the California Republican Party convention, Rankin and a number of other attendees decided to organize themselves and form the Legacy Republican Alliance (LRA), a fledgling political action committee, after researching and discovering that the party had no apparatus in place to court Black voters. The state GOP, not unlike the Republican National Committee, had essentially given up on the Black vote and offered no outreach to the Black community whether it was policy issues or simply presenting a viable alternative to the dominant democrat voting block within the African-American community not only locally and statewide, but nationally as well.
No Black republicans in state legislature
There are no Black republicans in the state legislature nor are there Black members of the party’s delegation to Congress. Democrats comprise roughly 72 percent of California’s registered voters, yet only six percent of those likely voters are republican. Even independents swamp the GOP statewide at 20 percent of potential voters.
Republican presidential candidates since 1976 have averaged not much more than 10 percent support from Black voters, according to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. This ranged from a low of 4 percent for John McCain in 2008, to a high of 17 percent for Gerald Ford in 1976. Ford’s results 44 years ago could be tied to the fact that many African-Americans remained reluctant to vote for a White democrat from Georgia in Jimmy Carter.
Black republicans say the Democrat Party has for too long ignored the issues dear to them. They’re not doing a good enough job, they say, at empowering Blacks in terms of organizing voter registration, or even advocating for voter registration. They’re not addressing the high cost of housing, urban renewal, failing schools, a continued lack of job opportunities in the inner city, and homelessness, the latter issue being front and center of most statewide campaigns heading into the November election.
Working for a ‘better California’
“No, we don’t agree with every issue as our democrat counterparts, but we will stand with one another and address the difficult issues in good faith,” Rankin explained. “We can work for a better California no matter which political party you may support. We have to listen to one another and talk about the things that impact the Black community not only in California, but across the nation.”
In April 2019, the California Republican Assembly, a statewide conservative activist group that former governor and U.S. President Ronald Reagan once called “the conscience of the Republican Party,” elected Johnnie Morgan as its first Black president. A high priority, Morgan said, is to recruit more Blacks and Independents to the join the state GOP.
“African-Americans place a premium on family as does the Republican Party,” Morgan said. Like Rankin, Morgan envisions more African-Americans voting republican because they want to see a difference made in their community.
“Run for the city council. Run for the school board. Represent yourself, your interests, your neighbors and most importantly, help to better represent your community,” Morgan said. “The democrats shouldn’t have a lock on the Black vote and we are determined to change that dynamic.”
The LRA wants to take their show on the road this year. They believe that the framework being designed in California can be adapted to more states nationwide.
Looking for diverse ideas
“California is in desperate need of diverse and thoughtful leaders who will bring a new and innovative approach to solving the state’s toughest challenges,”Rankin said.
So far, the group has backed Navy veteran Joe Collins in his bid to unseat Maxine Waters in the 43rd Congressional District. Aja Smith, another military veteran, is running to unseat Rep. Mark Takano in the 41st District (Inland Empire), and Tamika Harrison—yet another military veteran—has her eyes set on replacing John Garamendi in the Third District near Sacramento. Pasadena City Hall could also see a Republican in the mayor’s office as Major Williams has tossed his hat into the ring in “bluest of blue” Los Angeles County.
In 2008, former NFL player Jack Brewer raised money for Barack Obama. Times have changed. Now he’s among the biggest advocates of President Donald Trump within the Black community. He said more African-Americans are beginning to “awaken” to what’s going on in the country.
“I’m going to support the guy who is actually putting in the policies that are going to make life better for my young Black son and my young Black daughter, versus somebody who only gives me lip service,” Brewer said. “The democrats have gotten away with that in our community for far too long.”
Trump’s job-approval among Blacks increases
There is growing evidence that Trump’s policies are making inroads with potential Black republican voters. Three polls in November 2019 indicated that Trump’s job-approval rating among Black voters are hovering between 30 and 35 percent. That’s a significant increase in past polling data that show Black support of the GOP at less than 10 percent.
Trump advisors point to policies that are helping the Black community, such as criminal justice reform that allows more offenders (misdemeanors mostly) win early release from prison. Black GOP supporters also point to Trump’s increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Brewer sees this as positive news and an indicator that more African-Americans are going to join the Republican Party.
“Donald Trump will get over 20 percent of the Black vote,” he said. “That’s what’s going to win the election. The reason is that there hasn’t been a republican to even try to go in and talk to the Black community. They don’t even try. I think he’s trying, finally.”
The Brookings Institute, not exactly a bastion of conservative policy, said in a report late last year that the five U.S. Metropolitan areas with the highest Black populations (i.e. New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C.) have seen Black median household incomes increase from 7 percent in the nation’s capitol, to about 21 percent in Atlanta. Trump campaign advisors tout that more than 1.4 million jobs have been created for Black workers since he took office.
Trump received a reported 8 percent of the Black vote in 2016. Frank Newport, a senior political scientist with Gallop, said that number is not unusual noting that, barring an extraordinary event between now and November, history projects that Trump’s share of the Black vote will be similarly low this election year.
“We know, specifically from a business perspective, that the number of Black Republicans is pretty small,” Rankin noted. “We remain undaunted, though, in broadening our outreach to all of Black California to register and vote first and foremost. We created the LRA to increase our numbers and to make our voices heard so that we can have a seat