Missouri is braced for another round of unrest if a grand jury looking into the death of Michael Brown determines that police officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense. The visceral, knee-jerk reaction from so many of our fellow African-Americans is a troubling sign that racial divisions are as deep and raw as they’ve been since the days of the O.J. Simpson trial. But amid chaos, there are also signs of encouragement, harbingers that something might be changing in our inner cities. That instead of listening to race hustlers and identity politics harpies, we just might be waking up.
Since LBJ’s “Great Society,” we have been pulling voting booth levers for Democratic big government liberalism in overwhelming numbers. Our political loyalties were never in question, and we never bothered to look around us to see liberalism’s legacy of ashes in our inner cities and black communities from Ferguson to Compton.
To be sure, the gains are modest. African Americans still vote for Democrats three to one. But 2014 had some encouraging news that the Democrat lock on black voters may be starting to erode. Republicans picked up eight points among African-Americans nationwide (not to mention double-digit gains with Latinos). The lack of enthusiasm in the black community for Democrats like Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Anthony Brown in Maryland – seats that were deemed safe by virtually every pundit in America – made the difference for their victorious Republican opponents.
The midterm election was a thorough repudiation of Obama’s liberal, big government policies, but the real challenge has just begun. Conservatives face the tall order of strengthening a voting coalition in preparation for a much tougher race in 2016. We know that we can only achieve by broadening our base and reaching out to groups we haven’t in the past.
That work has already begun. Rand Paul has already been vocal – bluntly vocal – about the need to appeal to black voters. “Remember Domino’s Pizza? They admitted, ‘Hey, our pizza crust sucks.’ The Republican Party brand sucks and so people don’t want to be a Republican and for 80 years, African-Americans have had nothing to do with Republicans,” he said. And it’s what we’ve started with the Restore the Dream Campaign in the 2014 elections – we have begun an honest conversation with minority voters about liberty, individual freedom, free markets, and school-choice education.
During conversations in North Carolina and Ferguson, Missouri, we found many African-American and Hispanic leaders open to conservative principles and willing to work with us to create more opportunity for all.
Hope and change liberals have failed the black community. This sad state of affairs didn’t come from one president, but it did occur during a presidency that promised so much — the situation in these communities has gotten much worse. African-American wealth has fallen more under Obama than any president since the Great Depression.
Worse, Democrats resorted to the lowest form of political discourse in this election: race-baiting and fear-mongering. The New York Times said the Democratic materials circulated in states like Georgia and North Carolina were “striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression.” Democrats who used to rail against Jim Crow tactics are now using them in a desperate attempt to hold on to power and scare African-Americans into voting for a party that has ignored and exploited them for too long.
And the African-American community is fed up.
The most surprising meeting we had in Ferguson was with Democratic state Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal. She is known for being bold, effective and more than willing to speak her mind. She did not seem like the kind of Democrat who would enjoy sitting down with Tea Party Republicans, but she took our meeting. It turned out to be a polite and honest exchange of ideas. And to our surprise – she is fed up too. Fed up with the state’s Democratic governor who vetoed her education reform bill and with state Democrats who have abandoned Ferguson during this tough time. It was a truly informative meeting that underscored the basic idea behind the Restore the Dream campaign: you must have a conversation first in order to find common ground — and in an unlikely meeting we found we shared views on education reform.
As we continue to speak with minorities across the country, we are seeing Democrats trying to box Hispanics into a racial corner as well, some going as far as to compare the immigrant experience in America to the civil rights struggle.This argument is insulting to black Americans but it is also undermining the very people it’s ostensibly intended help. The very strength of immigrants to the U.S. is that they come here with an unbridled optimism and desire to achieve the American dream. That mentality has led to America’s immigration system being among the most generous and successful in the world. Immigrants continue to make this country better, but Democrats continue to tell them they have been wronged. If Hispanics accept this narrative and message of entitlement, America’s immigration genius will forever be undermined.
We don’t often agree with Bill Clinton, but he spoke truth when this October when he said: “I believe that in ways large and small, peaceful and sometimes violent, that the biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity.”
Political parties don’t have a monopoly on a group of people based on the color of their skin and scare tactics and demagoguery will no longer be tolerated. In the conversations we have had with individuals across the country, there is movement in formerly stalwart democratic voting blocks. They want prosperity and opportunity and they are open to new ideas – and, yes, new political parties.