Fresh Off Big Mid-Term Election Gains
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Mia Love, the first black Republican woman elected to Congress; Tim Scott, the second African-American elected to the Senate, and Texas’ black Congressman William Hurd were honored last week at the third annual RNC Black Trailblazer Awards Luncheon as the GOP began a rejuvenated effort to attract black voters, especially among black millennials.
“I made a promise as long as I am chairman, the Black Republican Trailblazers Luncheon will be one of our many efforts to recognize our leaders and activists, while building new relationships and strengthening old ones,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said.
“In the last two years, we saw new college Republicans chapters at two HBCUs, Morehouse and Central State University. Not only do we want to see more of that, we also want to spotlight the important role of HBCUs in our country.”
Engagement is the key in attracting black millennial voters, Priebus and other Republicans said during the event. In order to get votes from black millennials, the party is particularly targeting historically black colleges and universities, they said.
The effort follows the suggestion of the GOP’s Growth and Opportunity Report outlining the failures of the 2012 election, which recommended engaging HBCUs to talk about Republican ideals and the party’s history.
In response, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky visited Howard University in 2013 in one of the first efforts, though his effort to educate Howard University students on the party’s history backfired, leaving students feeling offended rather than informed.
“We are the worst messengers,: said Dr. Ada Fisher, RNC National Committeewoman of North Carolina. We have done so many great things and we have great ideas, but we can’t seem to get the message across. If we can’t get people to listen to us then it will be increasingly harder to attract black voters.”
Eddie Watson, a 24-year-old independent, said he came to the luncheon because it sounded interesting. He believes the GOP is headed in the right to direction.
“Activities and events like this makes the people seem more like people,” Watson said. “It’s easier to engage people like myself when you are in the community and have direct outreach, but in order for it to be effective you have to be consistent.”
Watson also said he thinks that if the GOP really wants to attract black millennials, it should focus heavily on finances and small businesses.
“The African American community financial base is shaky,” he said. “Republicans establishing jobs on the local level and supporting minority owned small businesses will get a lot of people’s attention, and they would be willing to hear what you have to say.
”Dwayne Bolton of Black America’s Political Action Committee said while he understands the strategy to attracting black millennials, the solution to attracting more African-Americans to his political party is simple.
“We have to get out there and show them what we have to offer as far as jobs, technology, community and core values,” Bolton said. “When we expose those things in the right way, they will see many of their values align with ours.”
According to surveys, only 8 percent of African American align themselves with the Republican Party, while 78 percent see themselves as Democrats and the remainder are Independents.
The GOP efforts have all contributed to the small and steady growth of engaging black voters.
In the November 2014 election, Republicans won a higher percentage of black voters than they did in 2012. In states such as Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio, there was double digit support among black voters.
“We have a ways to go, but that’s still an improvement,” Priebus said.
TV show host and political analyst Roland Martin, the cohost of the luncheon, said he believes the GOP is going in the right direction with the trailblazer’s luncheon and other black history month events.
“It is important they recognize the critical role African Americans play in politics,” Martin said. “It is important to engage and speak to the issues. This is most important, because if you don’t talk to the people you will never get the possibility of a vote.”