House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has formally unveiled his four-part “Republican Commitment to America” explaining to voters why they should vote for Republicans, not just against Democrats, in the upcoming midterm elections. The plan includes a commitment to a strong economy, safety, a secure border, government accountability, and “better care and improved health outcomes for all Americans.”
These issues will resonate with many Americans. Who doesn’t want safety and a strong economy? But is there enough here to make Black voters shift parties?
Black Americans certainly have enough reasons to abandon the Democrats. Like other voters, we are deeply concerned with rising crime, rising prices, and our essentially open border, and it’s clear who is responsible for these things.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party seems to have been waking up to the reality that Black Americans are voters, too, and that to get us to be more than just not-Democrats but enthusiastic Republicans, they need to treat us as a constituency worthy of respect.
It was President Trump who got the ball rolling, passing the First Step Act that freed 5,000 Black men from prison, investing unprecedented millions into Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and putting out the Platinum Plan that proposed investing in Black neighborhoods and businesses. As a result, President Trump secured 18 percent of Black male votes, a historic number for a Republican.
Ever since, there have been growing rumblings in the GOP about how to attract a larger share of the Black vote. But does McCarthy’s Commitment to America make enough of a case to do this?
Not quite. The plan doesn’t speak directly enough to the constituents whose economic outcomes and political power have been gutted by Democrat’s leadership, namely, descendants of U.S. slaves. And this is the primary way in which the Republican Commitment to America fails our community: It doesn’t specify how our unique political priorities will be addressed.
This is where the GOP has to grow a spine and name the specific ways it will help the Black community. While the identity politics of the Democrats have used “intersectionality” to bastardize the centuries-old legacy of Black America, the answer is not to ignore the specific needs of our community. The answer is to get it right and be precise.
For example, when Republicans mention accountability for how “banks denied loans to conservatives,” how can they omit the fact that banks have repeatedly been found guilty of large-scale discrimination against Black Americans, or the fact that local agricultural administrators for the federal government have denied Black farmers their constitutional freedoms and access to capital?
It is especially important for Republicans to address these failures because it was modern day conservatives and Republicans who derailed settlements for the decades if not generations of discrimination lawsuits faced by farming families who are descendants of U.S. slaves.
Derailing accountability and repair for abundantly documented harms is not the route to becoming “the party of all Americans.” And no American should require elected leaders to neglect one of America’s oldest and most storied citizen groups. In the GOP’s formal contract with America, Republicans would do best to retire the fear of naming specific needs of American constituencies in an “All Americans First” agenda.
In addition to specificity, recruiting Black Americans to the Right requires a patriotism that is explicit in being pro-Black. If McCarthy aims to usher in a GOP majority, our Republican Party had better be ready to unapologetically prioritize Black and white multigenerational Americans during the next eight years and beyond.
And McCarthy must issue a call to action for fellow Republican legislators to align their own legislative records with the promises on paper. I would rather Republican politicians not tell us what we want to hear and instead inspire confidence that, on day one, the GOP leadership will deliver on their promises made before the election.
For example, though Republicans are currently in the minority, the GOP has wasted valuable political power not proposing more robust immigration policies. When in power, they must immediately implement the decades-old call to mandate e-verify for all businesses.
In the meantime, I hope McCarthy’s official field guide to serve every kid, neighborhood, and American includes a mandate that House Republicans engage with, listen to, and activate to serve the needs of the descendants of U.S. slaves in their districts.
As minority leader making the case for his party, McCarthy must model how to recruit descendants of U.S. slaves back into the Republican Party. The clock is ticking.
Pamela Denise Long is CEO of Youthcentrix® Therapy Services, a business focused on helping organizations implement trauma-informed practices and diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism (DEIA) at the systems level. Connect with Ms. Long online at www.youthcentrix.com or @PDeniseLong on social media.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.