Columbia, SC — After the presidential election, I was asked to co-chair the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project — an initiative to find ways to grow the party. I knew where we had to make up the most ground: my community, the African-American community, where 93 percent of voters cast their ballots for President Obama.
Of course Republicans and the African-American community have close historical ties. Abolitionists founded the party, President Eisenhower integrated Central High, and African-Americans have been prominent Republican leaders. During Black History Month, we honor this shared history. But unless something changes, ours may not be a shared future.
That troubles me deeply. I believe Republican principles are best for this country, especially for African-Americans.
The unemployment rate among African-Americans is nearly six points above the national average; 2.5 million are without work. In the Obama economy, African-Americans have been hit harder than their white counterparts and more often have children trapped in underperforming schools.
The top-down policies of Washington Democrats and misguided liberals have failed. Like any American, I celebrate the historic nature of President Obama’s election. But I can’t celebrate the negative effects of his party’s policies. Our community deserves something better: more opportunity.
Republicans want equal opportunity for all, empowering the individual, not the government. Citizens should be free from the bloated bureaucracy that slows the economy, restricts educational opportunities and limits job prospects.
But our values are meaningless if we don’t communicate them to all voters.
This will change. As Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said at the party’s recent winter meeting: “We must be a party concerned about every American in every neighborhood. … We have to build better relationships in minority communities, urban centers and college towns. … Let’s stop talking about ‘reaching out’ and start working on welcoming in.”
So my message to African-Americans is that if you want a better future for your children, get to know Republicans. And my message to Republicans is that if you truly want to represent America, do a better job of getting to know the African-American community.
The Growth and Opportunity Project is the beginning of this important conversation, as we listen to Americans of all walks of life. But the work will continue for months and years to come. African-Americans and Republicans share a rich history. We can also share a bright future.
S.C. Republican National Committeeman