by Richard Ivory
A few weeks back an assemblage of party activist around the nation gathered to remember the life of Jack Kemp, the former pro quarterback and politician. Jacks life work of seeking to reach out to empower urban and minority communities around the nation was truly remarkable for a politician, and even more so for a Republican. He was a strong advocate for empowering the poor and improving the inner city with common sense polices.
His campaign to make the GOP into a truly big tent party is a side of his story that few know. The Nation, a liberal magazine, had an article out a few weeks ago detailing Jack Kemp’s struggle to turn the GOP into what it called “a modern tribune of humane and enlightened conservative ideals”. This goal of Jack Kemp was based on the twenty-first-century version of the British Tory Party that evolved under the leadership of Benjamin Disraeli”. The article written by long time Kemp friend John Nichols is entitled Jack Kemp vs. the Party of No.
The GOP has over the years failed to take on Jack Kemp’s call to reach out, in a serious manner, to minority voters. This unwillingness to reach out to minority voters is evident in every major political demographic poll. Its failure to launch and create an urban common sense platform towards young black voters has been quite unfortunate. In the past, the GOP felt that older middle class blacks were their primary target. Statistics, however, demonstrate that it was their children- not their parents- that the GOP should have reached out to.
The failure to cultivate these younger voters has all but reversed any hopes of changing this course. Many see the party as stuck in the past and out- of- touch. Younger Voters have all but turned their backs on our party even though Younger Voters agree with us on many key issues.
According to The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, only 10.3 percent (learners included) of 18-25 year old blacks today actually identify with the Party. The numbers were once going in the GOP’s favor. Their latest study, however, is the first since 1984 in which younger African Americans were less Republican than older African Americans.
The study goes on to say that “this trend represents a potentially troubling datum for the GOP because for the last 20 years, the Republican Party’s best prospect for improving their African American support was through the younger cohort.” Further, the study went on to say that, the alienation of young African Americans from the GOP does not mean they oppose Republican principles. A sizable proportion of these young voters-between one third and one-half-are sympathetic to Republican Party issue positions.
As such, The Center’s 2002 national survey actually suggested that the GOP might expect to be more successful appealing to younger African Americans than older because according to studies “25 percent of this population are self-described conservatives, and 66.4 percent support school vouchers for public, private, or parochial schools. On the issue of Social Security which is a signature issue of the Democratic Party, 61.2 percent of young blacks believe they will get back less from Social Security than what they pay into Social Security, and a substantial 79.3 percent favor partial privatization of Social Security”.
On the values front, the study says, “a majority (52.9 percent) of these young African Americans attend church at least once a week. Moreover, that despite the compatibility between GOP issues, positions and the views of many young African Americans, “the overly conservative, Southern White nature of the National Republican Party keeps young blacks in the Democratic Column.”
The need and the time to change this tide in younger and minority voters are now. If the GOP ignores this opportunity it could potentially loose its hold on another generation of minority voters. We need to as a party do what one person suggested on an HHR online forum and begin to see outreach not as pandering but being responsible for taking action to grow our Party in communities where we are currently under-represented. Seeing it as a valid and necessary business module for reaching our overall goals of winning elections and being politically relevant.
Richard Ivory is the publisher of the centrist blog HipHopRepublican.com; he has worked for the Republican National Committee and was the college outreach director for the Republican Youth Majority.