So you are a Native American or native Alaskan or Native Hawaiian. You are thinking about supporting President Donald Trump and the Republican Party? The Democrats and the main stream media would say you are nuts. They don’t want Natives thinking for themselves and they don’t want natives knowing what the Republican Party in the era of Trump stands for when it comes to Native peoples.
More than 5 million Americans identify as either Native American or Alaskan native – that is almost 2% of the population. Another 560,000 identify as Native Hawaiians. This large, and largely ignored, demographic know more than any other group in America just how dangerous a reliance on big government can be, which should make Native peoples a natural target for the Republican Party of President Trump to make inroads with.
While native people account for about two percent of the American population, natives peoples make up large blocks in several states including Hawaii (where they account for 21 percent of the population) Alaska (17 percent of the voting age population), Oklahoma (11 percent), New Mexico (10 percent), South Dakota (eight percent), Montana (seven percent) and Arizona (five percent).
Several close and important elections have been decided – in part – by the votes of native peoples. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) credits her 2010 write-in election to the vote of Native Alaskans. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) narrowly won election in 2000 with the support of 12 tribal endorsements. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) won her election by less than 1 percent in 2012, a win she publicly credited to Native American voters in North Dakota.
Arguably, no group of voters in America can speak more to the abject failures of government than native peoples.
The national graduation rate for native peoples is less than 50 percent, while the graduation for white students is over 76 percent.
As grim and depressing as these statistics are, they are even worse among native peoples living on reservations.
As we look to grow the Make America Great Again coalition that elected President Trump in 2016, we can and should make the case to native voters.
First, Republicans favor tribal authority over federal or state power.
The GOP platform states: “Native communities should have the same authority as state governments in labor matters, so that union bosses and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cannot undermine the authority of tribal governments.” It is especially egregious that the Democratic Party has persistently undermined tribal sovereignty in order to provide advantage to union bosses in the tribal workplace.
Second, the GOP offers native people a new way forward. Big government has been an abject failure for native peoples, we must make the affirmative case on how our populist-conservative policies are good for all Americans — but especially for native peoples.
President Trump’s efforts at fighting the flood of cheap illegal immigrant labor will help create jobs for native peoples. So will the President’s commitment to a comprehensive infrastructure plan that will modernize, repair and build new highways, bridges, railways, and airports.
Third, we should make it clear that Trump’s Republican Party will treat sacred lands differently than the Republican establishment has treated sacred lands in the past. Native peoples have a special and spiritual relationship to the land. While many in the Republican establishment believe that everything can be bought and sold, there are some public lands that are so important – indeed sacred – that they cannot and should not be treated as simply another commodity. During the primaries, Trump was the only Republican candidate who was willing to stand up for public lands and pledged to protect them. If we are going to make the case to native peoples to consider the GOP then President Trump must say no to the D.C. think tank crowd and the big corporate interests and stand firm in defending public lands.
Fourth, we need to make it clear that conservative policies that support and defend families and encourage individual responsibility and individual opportunity can begin to repair the horrific damage that decades and decades of big government policies have done to native communities and families.
Finally, to win the votes of native peoples we need to show up. President Trump has never been afraid to reach out to groups that haven’t traditionally voted Republican. We need a Republican Party that will make reaching out to native voters a priority.
The big government policies of the Democratic Party have been an unmitigated disaster for native peoples. Native people deserve better than broken promises, they deserve a party that will support policies that will protect their heritage, support their families and communities, and undo the decades of damage done to native peoples. The Republican Party of President Trump can be that party.
Kambree Kawahine Koa is a radio and television contributor based in California.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.