The recent defeat of House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent shock waves throughout D.C. like I have never seen before. But, in Cantor’s defeat, I see great opportunity for the Republican Party to make inroads into the black community.
Cantor represents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which is a suburb of Richmond. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, it has a population of 757,917 (74.3 percent white, 17.1 percent black), median income of $ 64,751. In other words, it is the definition of a middle-class district. The district is rated as a solid Republican (R+10).
Before we can understand how Republicans can learn from this, we must understand why Cantor lost. It was a total repudiation of the lack of leadership and vision within the Republican congressional leadership.
How could Cantor justify supporting amnesty for illegals when there are 50 million Americans out of work? How could he justify giving in-state tuition to illegals when American-born Americans can barely afford college? How could Cantor justify illegal children getting accommodations at a 5-star military base when American children are being moved from homeless shelter to homeless shelter?
Cantor’s constituents (black and white) were asking him some very simple questions: Who is looking out for me and my interests? My husband has been laid off and has been seeking employment for two years, so we can’t afford to send our child to college. Why are our tax dollars going to pay for the education of those in the country illegally? Where is the help for those of us who were born here?
We are building bridges and roads in foreign countries, while ours are falling apart. We have recently returned war veterans living on the streets, while we put illegals in hotels and on military bases. Our troops are eating meals ready to eat (MREs) and illegals are complaining about the burritos they are being served.
With 17.1 percent of Cantor’s constituents being black, he should have known that he was on the wrong side of the amnesty issue. Blacks are the single largest demographic group that opposes amnesty, despite support from such black groups as the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Congressional Black Caucus. These groups do not reflect the views of the average black voter. If Cantor had some blacks on his staff and working in his campaign, he would have known that.
If Cantor had some credible blacks around him, he would have known that blacks are thoroughly disillusioned with Obama and his policies and they are willing to look at supporting a “viable” Republican alternative.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS), the national unemployment rate is 6.3 percent and for blacks 11.5 percent. So why would a black person vote for someone who supports importing more competition from illegals for low and unskilled jobs?
Under Obama, according to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate for blacks went from 12 percent in 2008 to its current 16.1 percent; median income decreased by 3.6 percent for white households to $ 58,000, but fell 10.9 percent to $ 33,500 for black households.
Republicans fail to see that immigration is a cross-over issue that unites both blacks and whites.
Paul E. Peterson, professor of government at Harvard University, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Gains under the Obama administration by all students range between minimal and nonexistent, and the black-white gap on test scores threatens to widen after having narrowed steadily over the previous nine years [the Bush years].”
Obama has done everything in his power to sabotage blacks having access to better educational opportunities. Just last year Obama’s Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block Louisiana’s tuition voucher program, which has produced significant improvement for blacks and Hispanics. The Washington Post’s editorial board blasted Obama stating that he wanted, “to trap poor black children in ineffective schools.”
Mixed messages coming from our congressional leadership is fueling the anger that was on display in the Cantor race: We Republicans claim to support the middle class, fight for Americans, support our troops, and represent “real America.”
Last time I checked, America is a very diverse nation, but it is not reflected within our congressional leadership, their staffs, or their advisers.
Cantor surrounded himself with his usual white consultants who had no one around them with a different perspective on any of the issues. This campaign was exhibit A in why diversity is necessary within our party.
But, can someone explain to me how a national party leader in the 21st century doesn’t notice that he has no blacks on his personal or leadership staff? He’ll have plenty of time to think about it in coming years.
Meanwhile, other Republicans need to take heed.
Most Republicans are not aware that Mitt Romney received 20 percent of the black vote from males between ages 20-30 (though he received only 6 percent nationally). So this notion about Obama having a stranglehold on the black vote is pure fiction.
Neither the Republican Party nor the Tea Party are racist. They both have been horrible in the area of communications. They both have allowed the media and liberal to brand them as racists and have done nothing to counter the charges. So, a lie oft repeated becomes the truth.
If Cantor’s loss causes our congressional leadership to realize that they need to actively engage the black community on substantive issues, then it will be a worthwhile loss. If they continue what they have been doing; then they will become as the sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
(Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached via www.raynardjackson.com. Follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.)