Guest Post: GAGOP Minority Engagement – Elections And Impact

The Georgia Republican Party has been doing more to reach out to minority voters. Leo Smith is leading the GAGOP Minority Outreach committee, and I asked if he would like to pen a few thoughts on the committee’s progress:

The Georgia GOP’s Minority Engagement initiative is a new spoke in the wheel that is moving our party forward. This initiative highlights solutions that go beyond partisanship by finding soft-landing spots for voters of color to punch ballots for Republicans, and encouraging and vetting minority candidates to announce and run as Republicans.

After just six months, the Georgia Republican Party has numerous successes to report. New efforts are underway in targeting precincts that can make a difference, identifying natural allies, encouraging new leadership, creating fun social events where ideas can be shared, and preparing new participants to get out the vote.

Georgia is good soil for civic action that will impact the rest of the country. We are fortunate to have leadership from stalwart Republicans like the former and current chairs of the Georgia Black Republican Council, Michael McNeely and Rich Thompson. McNeely is now the 1st Vice Chair of the state party. Asian American influence is brought to the table from supporters Jimmy Ho and RNC Asian American Advisory Board Member Baoky Vu.

We are excited about the number of new faces rising to the occasion. People like Nicholas Buford and Carlos Hundley in Valdosta, Jessica Burnett in Atlanta, Robert Donaldson in Savannah, and a host of bold leaders in metro Atlanta like Travis Stegall and Kemay Jackson of the Georgia Black Republican Council. New names are also founding new coalition efforts and organizations. Jessica Morris Hayes in Augusta has already organized two events in Augusta with a new effort called CSRA Minority Engagement.

While inclusion, diversity, and engagement are important, we need a winning strategy. Millions of Americans appreciated the significance of President Obama’s election in 2008, while also acknowledging his presence hasn’t contributed to black American uplift. The reality is Democrats have made it their business to use the constructed Trojan horse of race as a weapon against more character focused Republicans. Republicans have the best solutions but you can’t implement policy that solves problems unless you win. Ignoring race and identity politics won’t help us in conversations where much has been made of race. If the Republican Party is serious about being the Party of ideas, we should work to flesh out good ideas and those ideas should sell to Republicans, Democrats and the growing number of Black Independents.

We must also be mindful that minority candidates can suffer from “foot-in-mouth” disease too. With changing demographics and smart phones with social media, closed-door conversations quickly go viral. We have the potential to lose good conservative minority candidates if we aren’t thoughtful with all messaging. A little consultation and preparation goes a long way.

We are looking at new candidates from untapped demographics with activist histories that stand for uplifting families, personal responsibility, fiscal restraint, education reform, and smaller government. We are seeking candidates who can represent the underrepresented. That means for example, Black Americans who can have greater say in justice reform to business development in predominately black American inner city communities. Likewise, we look forward to conservative Hispanic Americans with fresh perspectives on immigration reform that respects our borders and edifies patriotism.

The primaries are upon us and there will be many new faces this election season. While we still have a long road ahead, I am confident that our Minority Engagement efforts at the Georgia Republican Party have the necessary buy-in, support, and resources to significantly alter the political landscape in Georgia one voter, one solution at a time.


  1. saltycracker says:

    Both sides can give it all the lip service we need to feel good but we keep redistricting by party/ race “voices”.

  2. greencracker says:

    “We have the potential to lose good conservative minority candidates if we aren’t thoughtful with all messaging”

    What, teh blaks, teh womenz, teh Azians, teh gayz etc, speak some other language? I wasn’t aware, but OK.

    • Blake says:

      Definitely one of the more head-scratchy moments in the piece. Especially since given the first sentence in the paragraph, it seems to be saying that “even good conservative minority candidates can lose through gaffery if we don’t train them well enough.” Which, in turn, seems like the kind of historical condescension-to-minorities that this whole outreach effort is supposed to overcome.

      Just one of several lulz!

  3. Minority outreach idea: Maybe when Gov. Deal bars access to hospitals for non-pregnant women who don’t have insurance, underneath the sign that says no entry allowed if you don’t have insurance, they could put a pamphlet that explains why the state can’t afford Medicaid expansion, and a notepad where you can put your name, phone number and email address to get more information about joining the Republican party.

    • Harry says:

      Or maybe we just increase the debt/taxes/health insurance on anyone who has an identifiable source of income.

  4. Michael Silver says:

    These efforts needs to bear fruit and votes, because when gun owners find out how much energy and sleazy tactics Lt.Gov Cagle and Gov. Deal used to kill gun bills over the last 3.5 years, they will be mucho angry.

  5. northside101 says:

    “We need a winning strategy.”

    Yes indeed…but that probably has to start at the top, as in minorities voting Republican for top-level contests like president and US Senate before they will elect Republicans to downballot race.. That is how Republicans, over an evolutionary period of say 50 years, came to control the South. In the 1950s and 1960s, most southern states began to vote Republican for president; in fact, some did so four times during that period (such as Tennessee and Virginia). Then it filtered down…in the mid to late 1960s, some southern states elected GOP governors; in the 1970s and 1980s, GOP senators like Jesse Helms in North Carolina and Thad Cochran in Mississippi. In the 1990s, the GOP saw congressional breakthroughs, such as winning a majority of Georgia’s congressional delegation, and by 2000, some southern states were seeing at least one state legislative chamber under GOP control. A decade or so later, just about every legislative chamber of the states of the Old Confederacy (11 states) was under GOP control (an exception today remains Virginia, where their State Senate narrowly is under Democratic control). In other words, Georgia and other southern states did not first elect a GOP legislature, then elect GOP congressmen, and then GOP statewide officials—it worked the other way around.

    In other words, a district voting, say, 60 percent or more Democratic regularly for high offices (president, governor, etc.) is unlikely to elect a Republican to that particular district. We see that nationwide reflected in the presidential returns. Roughly (I forget the exact figures, but this is close) Obama carried 95 percent of the congressional districts who elected Democrats to our national’s capital last year, and Romney won 95 percent of the congressional districts which elected Republican congressmen and women. We see that reality in our congressional races in Georgia—notice how Republicans are taking a bye in CD 4 (Hank Johnson), CD 5 (John Lewis) and CD 13 (David Scott) this year, none of which has ever come close in the last dozen years to electing a Republican (in Lewis’s tenure, going on 28 years, no Republican has ever even won as much as a third of the vote against him). In Georgia, only one congressional district voted the opposite way for president and US House—John Barrow’s CD 12, which voted 55 percent for Romney and 54 percent for Barrow (of course it helped that Barrow’s opponent, Lee Anderson, was hardly Mr. Articulate)

    There was a time when Republicans won a decent share of the minority vote—in 1960 for instance, when Nixon won perhaps a third of the black vote (admittedly much smaller than it was prior to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act). In 1980, perhaps a third of Georgia blacks backed Mack Mattingly over then-Senator Herman Talmadge, the latter hindered in his black support because of his segregationist past. If Republicans are able to work to that level over time, then Democrats would be hard pressed to win statewide.

    • Decent analysis but the ultimate problem for the GOP is that if they are able to get significant number of black votes, that means that they will have lessened the influence of their racial hardliners. If that happens, I’d wager the number of poor whites the GOP would lose who would benefit from bigger government but don’t vote for Democrats because it is the “black party” is higher than the number of conservative blacks they would gain. Hence, where we have ended up and where we are.

      Now – in places like Georgia if the parties de-racialized (for lack of a better term) that would probably be a net gain for the Democrats. But in places like New York, where white voters who make millions of dollars a year won’t vote for Republicans because of social issues, if you had a realignment based on economic issues the Republicans would gain.

      So the ultimate problem is nationally the Republicans need this to happen so that they can compete and win in places that economic analysis would indicate they could do well in (and definitely used to) but their stakeholders aren’t from places like that, they are from places like Georgia, where this type of change would be a net negative for them.

      In a lot of ways, the Republican party is like a corporation and southern conservatives are like a bad old trade union that the corporation is captive to. A long time ago, the party promised the union big future benefits in exchange for their support in a labor dispute. And many years ago, southern conservatives took that bargain, voted for Republicans, and now in their own territories they have all the power and perks. But the party is incapable of retooling and expanding elsewhere because their union won’t allow it. Kind of ironic.

  6. Harry says:

    Instead of focusing on one ethnicity or the other the GOP needs to appeal to independents and disillusioned former voters.

  7. George Chidi says:

    I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’m a progressive Democrat, and I wonder at times about whether the racial polarization of the parties is good for the country. In a just world and a fair electorate, I would expect to see more African Americans voting for Republicans … and more white people voting for Democrats.

    For all the focus on Republicans and the demographic shift demanding minority outreach, the opposite is also true. About 77 percent of white Georgians voted for Mitt Romney. Even if Democrats start winning elections again in Georgia, do I really want that to come in an environment where I can guess the partisan leanings of someone based on their race — black or white — with at least a three-in-four chance of being correct? That’s dangerous to democracy in all kinds of ways. Conversations that should happen simply won’t.

    I’ve been saying on the left that candidate quality matters. A strong candidate with shoe leather retail politics and an ability to capture the imagination, listening to the public with a focus on honest competent governance can trump ideological considerations. I imagine the same goes for the right.

    That said, policy matters.

    Non-white Democrats aren’t rejecting conservatives because the packaging sucks. They’re rejecting policies formed from outside their communities. It isn’t enough to have a black guy offering party-line conservative talking points. To win black voters, you have to actually listen to black voters.

    Here. Try this.

    There’s all kinds of pent-up entrepreneurial power buried in the black community. Many, many people have a side gig — or their straight up gig — in their basement because it’s hard to find a real job for many people of color. Some of that has to do with structural racism. Some with education issues.

    Anti-discrimination law in employment ought to be a conservative talking point, framed as a way to lower dependence on the government in communities of color. Couple that with policies that encourage entrepreneurship in economically-disadvantaged communities, and it could be an entry point for a quality candidate to win more black votes.

    Of course, as soon as communities of color start to embrace that posture, conservatives will decry it as some kind of creeping progressive plot to undermine the Republican Party and you’ll be right back as square one.

  8. seenbetrdayz says:

    I think if you look at areas like Chicago where there are practically no republicans, democrats have most certainly taken the minority vote for granted. Campaigning against the GOP with a common premise that ‘the republican doesn’t care about minorities’ doesn’t exactly work anymore when there are no republicans to blame. You can’t ‘blame it on the rain’ when you’re in the middle of a drought.

    Last year a conference in Chicago which hosted Al-Sharpton was turned on its head when disgruntled blacks started pointing out that decades of voting democrat have not exactly resulted in improvement as democrats claim.

    Messaging is key. No, they don’t speak another language. But the GOP’s problem is that you’ve got guys like Romney who try to say the Wal-street bailout was necessary (corporate welfare) and yet welfare to the average citizen is wrong. That’s just inconsistent. A much stronger message is that everyone is free and empowered to succeed (or even fail) on their own merits. I don’t support welfare because ultimately I think it breeds dependency and robs people of their initiative. I don’t support corporate welfare, either, because I think it robs from people who actually have initiative and might improve their lot in life if only the gov’t would stop robbing from them to buy toxic assets from Bank of America, as just one example. Unless the GOP can provide a consistent message of self-improvement and empowerment, then people are always gonna look at the D’s like, ‘hey, these guys are giving out free stuff,’ which is a hard bargain to beat.

  9. slyram says:

    The GOP could get 10 to 20% of the Black vote if they could get the wildest 10 to 20% of the far Right to dial it down. As a moderate, I don’t usually push op-ed writer E.J. Dionne from the lefty MSNBC crowd but this week he was on it when talking about the GOPers who wanted to win elects vs. the “no surrender” crowd.

    “For the most part, Ryan insisted, “these disagreements have not been over principles or even policies. They’ve been over tactics.”

    Wow, that has been the central theme of my blog for years. 25% of Black southern voters are relatively conservative but will never be around the messy types.

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