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Conference called @large seeks Black votes for GOP?

6th May 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

The Party of Lincoln has fallen to such a weakened state amongst African Americans that in many inner city precincts in 2012, from Cleveland to New Orleans, GOP candidate Mitt Romney received not a single vote.

A gathering at the end of the month in Baton Rouge seeks to reverse this trend. @large is a one and a half day conference for Black conservatives interested in engaging in the political process. The conference, to be held May 30-31, 2013 at Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge, La., convenes with the goal to inspire, motivate, and encourage Black conservatives to get involved in politics and build a constituency within their communities.

State-050613The conference has its work cut out for its advocates. In Louisiana alone, while the Republican Party has made advances in recent years, African Americans are one demographic where Republicans have lost strength. A study by the political consulting firm JMC Enter­prises found that in 2001, Black voters divided 83-3.5 percent Democratic/Republican (ano­ther 14 percent were Independent) in the Pelican State.

Today, the party breakdown is 80-2.5 percent Democratic/­Republican (17 percent Indepen­dent). In absolute numbers, this means that the number of Black registered voters has increased 14 percent over the past 12 years, while the number of Black Republicans has decreased 17 percent. (In fact, March 2013 voter registration figures show that African Americans now constitute a 52-46 percent majority of all registered Democrats in the state.)

One of the organizers of @large, Scott McKay, publisher of the TheHayride.com political website, explained in an interview with The Louisiana Weekly, why he believes this conference can begin to alter that trend.

“Just listen to a Deneen Borelli, C.L. Bryant, K. Carl Smith or Star Parker speak and the question answers itself. These are passionate, intelligent, eloquent people you can’t dismiss out of hand, and for two days we’re exposing @large attendees to a solid diet of them. We think part of helping to develop a cadre of leaders to carry a conservative message into the Black community involves exposing them to folks who can best articulate that message.

“One theory behind the @large conference,” McKay continued, “is that the biggest reason the GOP is suffering so badly with Black voters is a failure to ask for the vote. That failure has made it easy for Democrats to demonize all white Republicans as racists and all Black Republicans as Uncle Toms. They’ve been pretty successful with that and it won’t change until the party presents the Black community, and perhaps middle-class African Americans in particular, with candidates and leaders with whom they can culturally identify and who carry a conservative message.

“The dirty little secret here is that the Democrats have governed horribly where the Black community is concerned, which is a statistical fact, and that many Democrat policies are unpopular with a large swath of the Black community. Breach that barrier and get to an honest discussion of policy, and there is a lot less distance between the Black community and the GOP than the Democrats would like people to think.”

African-American public opinion has, in fact, diverged slightly from Democratic talking points on several issues in the past few weeks. Some have noted anxieties over the recent move to embrace gay marriage, leading some Black Congressmen, such as New Orleans’ Cedric Richmond, to refuse to take the final step and embrace the position—one of only 17 Democrats in the House to do so.

However, immigration is where there have been several cracks most recently in Democratic coalition. While the media has focused on GOP divisions over the Immigration Bill, less attention has been given to African-American anxiety over the legislation. Several Black critics have noted that it could exacerbate an already terrible employment picture for African Americans, but there has been little response from the Democratic leadership.

Black labor-force-participation rate stands at 61.2 percent. Only one in two adult Black males has a full-time job. Some African-American demographers cite illegal immigration as a cause, estimating that 40 percent of the 18-point drop in Black-employment rates over the last few decades directly attributes to Black labor displaced by illegal immigrants. And, these critics note that the Gang of Eight’s legislation will add up to 30 million legal immigrants over the next 10 years. Put another way, the total African-American population in the U.S. amounts to 41 million, only 18.5 million of whom work in the civilian labor force.

McKay, while not specifying il­legal immigration in particular as a cause, did note that the conference will discuss Black unemployment, and the persistent lack of concern displayed by the Democratic leadership. “African Americans aren’t served well by 16 percent unemployment, declining net worth and crumbling communities. “

He hopes that @large will tell the Louisiana Black community, “Look, there is another way out there. The only people who really benefit from this monopoly on the Black vote the Democrats hold are the mostly-white people who run that party. We’re bringing a host of people to Baton Rouge who know politics and policy inside out, and who can offer a different path than the one the Black community and in fact the country are on.”

Black dissatisfaction with the GOP is so extreme that a survey by the author and this newspaper discovered that African Americans voters actually skipped the Lt. Gov and Sec. State ballots in last election to fill unexpired terms. And that a near plurality of the city’s Black electorate refused to cast a vote for a Republican in a statewide contest when there was no Democrat listed on the ballot.

When asked how can conservatives fight such dissatisfaction to even get African Americans to support one Republican candidate under those circumstances, McKay replied, “Well, first you have to ask for the vote. In neither of those two races was there a real attempt to seriously campaign in the Black community.”

“What’s more, let’s face it; two Republicans in a runoff isn’t exactly a red-hot race even for white voters. Tom Schedler and Jim Tucker were largely six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-the-other no matter who you were.”

“It’s missionary work. It probably takes a long time to accomplish. But either the conservative movement or the GOP gets started with it or nothing will ever change.”

This article originally published in the May 6, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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