Republicans, E.W. Jackson and the Minority Vote

By D.J. Jordan

As a Black conservative, it was exciting to see an African-American nominee by the Republican Party of Virginia for statewide office in E.W. Jackson. In the face of the same old tired race-baiting attacks from the left, it was the Republican Party, not the Democrats, who nominated an ethnic minority to its statewide platform in May.

At the Convention, it was a large group Caucasian Republicans and Tea Party activist over the age of 50-years-old that won him the victory – the very people the media labels as racists. It was the Democrats who rejected African-American Justin Fairfax for Attorney General and Indian-American Aneesh Chopra for Lieutenant Governor. Surprisingly, the Virginia media helped the Democratic Party of Virginia keep this little secret. Also, it was Democrat Ralph Northam who disrespected our Black Lieutenant Governor nominee, Jackson, by refusing to shake hands after a debate. Just imagine if a Republican would have done this?

Nevertheless… but here we are… licking our wounds after electoral defeat. There are many reasons that led to these results and a closer dive into the polling data will reveal reasons why we lost. I appreciate Ken Cuccinelli and all of our candidates, and the noble race they ran. But as the Republican hand-wringing and finger-pointing commences after our defeat, some conservatives are asking… “Why didn’t Commonwealth minorities vote for our guys with E.W. on the ticket?”

Many Republican Party of Virginia Convention-goers assumed that electing E.W. Jackson would secure greater support from minorities in our demographically changing state. They assumed his nomination would appeal to minorities and gain the respect of the Black community. In fact… after the Convention, one blogger on this respected site, Bearing Drift, referred to Jackson as, “…someone with instant credibility within the black community.”

Hold on a minute.

Despite this assumption, my fellow conservatives must realize that minorities will not blindly vote for another minority. And… just because someone is African-American, doesn’t mean they have “instant credibility” in the community. If this were the case, Clearance Thomas and Alan Keyes would all be celebrated by the NAACP and Black community, at large. But that hasn’t happened.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions that nominating a Black person mean that he or she has credibility in the Black community, or will win our Party the minority vote. The truth is that increasing our vote among ethnic minorities takes time in those communities, engaging them and listening to them, celebrating their culture, and communicating how our conservative principles will improve their lives.

I voted and campaigned for Jackson and I wish he would’ve won. However, from the start… I never thought he would be supported by the African-American community or minorities, in general. The fact of the matter is that a few of his strong statements did not resonate within the Black community. For example… his Convention speech ending, “I’m not an African-American, I’m an American,” is something that most Blacks don’t respect or understand.

Instead of talking about jobs, minority-owned businesses, poor performing schools in predominately minority neighborhoods, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Mr. Jackson focused on “letting liberty light the way for Virginia.” Even though I firmly believe a more liberty-focused government would in fact improve our state, this phrase simply wasn’t a message that resonated with most minorities. And many of his comments about faith and complicated theological matters opened the door to being misperceived as judgmental and divisive.

Don’t get me wrong. Many Black conservatives do have widespread credibility in the community. Michael Steele, Condoleezza Rice, J.C. Watts, Sen. Tim Scott, and others are widely respected in the African-American community, as is Artur Davis, Kay Coles James, Bill Thomas and Joe Ellison here in Virginia. But these folks have earned credibility by engaging the community and articulating that they care about the problems that the African-American community faces.

My intent for this column is not to criticize E.W. Jackson, but to challenge the Party to rethink our political strategies for winning an increasingly diverse state. Nominating minority candidates are great for the Republican Party, and we should continue doing so. But we must engage minority communities also. A change of principles isn’t necessary to woe minorities, but a change in tone and relational strategy must be altered in order to appeal to our diverse constituency and win statewide elections in the future.

Face it my fellow Republicans. America is becoming more brown, and states like Virginia are leading the way. In 2011, minority births outnumbered white births in the United States for the first time. The Census Bureau estimates that whites will be a minority group within several decades.

Virginia is an extremely diverse state that is becoming more multicultural and diverse, especially among the Hispanic and Asian-American populations in northern Virginia. In 1990, minorities made up 24% of the population. Today, that number is about 35% and growing. The Virginia counties and cities that are proving most pivotal to election victory are becoming even more diverse. In Virginia Beach, 35% of the population is minorities and in Chesapeake, 40% are minorities. In Loudoun County, that number is 40%. In Henrico County, 44% are minorities and in Prince William County, where I live, a whopping 52% of the population is minorities.

A decade ago, we ignored this demographic argument by pointing out that most minorities aren’t coming out to vote. We can no longer say this. In a high turnout election, minorities have delivered victories in the last 2 presidential years. And in this last election, with President Obama NOT on the ballot, minorities still made up 28% of the electorate, compared to 30% in 2012. In fact, the African-American community made up 20% of the electorate in Virginia last week, the same percentage in the 2012 high-turnout election.

Minorities overwhelmingly voted for Democrats. A Latino Decisions 2013 poll showed that 66% of Latinos and 63% of Asian-Americans voted for McAuliffe. And 90% of African-Americans supported McAuliffe. Instead of hoping that minorities don’t show up to vote, we should aggressively engage them and convince them to give our Party a chance.

Winning diverse constituencies is possible, especially with the growing Latino and Asian-American population. We’ve seen it before by various Republicans. For example, with the Black vote, Chris Christie just won 21% in his election last week. Looking at past leaders, George Allen won 15% of the Black vote here in Virginia, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels won 20% of the Black vote, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty won 23%, former Ohio Senator George Voinovich won 32%, and Mike Huckabee won 48% of the Black vote.

In Virginia, Rep. Randy Forbes is a model on how to do this. His fourth Congressional district is nearly 40% minority yet he continues to win comfortably by double-digits. And although Obama won his district in 2008, Forbes still won by a whopping 20 points that year. He has been able to do this by creating and maintaining relationships with minorities in his district. All Virginia Republicans can look to Mr. Forbes as an example of how to adjust a political strategy while not compromising on conservative principles.

Look…voters don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Our conservative principles go beyond only addressing tax rates, line-item vetoes, and less regulations… conservative principles address the problems of everyday Virginians, no matter if it’s poor education, poverty, child care, or transportation problems.

Democrats have no won 7 of the last 8 high-profile statewide races in Virginia since 2005. This is unacceptable.

Conservatives have real solutions for the real problems that real Virginians face, no matter what their ethnicity is. But if we don’t communicate them to every person in this great Commonwealth, we won’t enjoy the privilege of governing this Commonwealth anytime soon.

D.J. Jordan lives in Prince William County and has worked for Fox News and various Republicans on Capitol Hill. Follow him on Twitter — @_DJ_Jordan.

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