Any notion that the Republican Party is a legitimate home for an expanding bloc of black voters is detonated by the party’s actions and the image it sees in the mirror each morning. In either Washington or Montgomery, the story is the same.
Let’s start with the latter.
Last week, Alabama GOP Chair Terry Lathan told AL.com that the party wants to recruit more African-American candidates and that black conservatives in Alabama have much in common with the white conservatives who have traditionally dominated the state’s Republican Party.
“Our numbers have bumped up some,” Lathan said. “What we continue to do and actually need to do deeper in the minority community is have good conversations with them. In doing so, I believe, as many believe, that we need to talk about the things that we have in common. That we are brothers and sisters and Alabamians and American citizens. When we do that, we find that there are a lot of minorities that absolutely agree with conservative policy and agendas.”
She’s right — there are black conservatives in Alabama who espouse principles of limited government, low taxes and reducing regulations in hopes of spurring business growth. There also are black voters in Alabama who side with the party’s stance against abortion and same-sex marriage. Those issues aren’t color-coded.
But the GOP? Its membership is overwhelmingly white. Its image is overwhelmingly white. And the party’s legislative actions, both in Alabama and Washington, too often push policies that are dismissive or detrimental to minority communities. Black Alabamians aren’t unaware of where their interests rank among GOP concerns.
A Republican Party that doesn’t honestly address the issues of poverty, the common inadequacy of majority-black public schools and the value of racial diversity in today’s America is a party that doesn’t truly value minority voters. Alabama’s conservative Latino voters are small in number, but they face this same political predicament.
As you’d expect, Alabama’s GOP is an ardent supporter of President Trump and his never-before-seen style of Washington politics. But Trump’s racially tinged comments and xenophobic policies neuter Lathan’s attempts to woo larger blocs of black Alabamians into the GOP fold. Alabama Republicans want it both ways — to support Trump and court larger numbers of minority voters — but that’s not possible without substantive political change. Even congressional efforts that put an undue strain on low-income Alabamians, many of which are minorities, hang like albatrosses from the Alabama GOP’s neck.
In 2016, the Pew Research Center surveyed the populations of Republican and Democratic registered voters. “There has been no increase in the share of Republicans who are black; blacks made up 2 (percent) of all Republican voters in 1992 and make the same share of all GOP registered voters today.” Two percent. Alabama Republicans can talk all they want, but until their candidates, in Washington and Montgomery, pursue legislation that is color-blind and fair to all, their attempts to woo larger numbers of black voters will likely fail.