JACKSON: The GOP and Identity Politics in the Black Community

Courtesy of donaldjtrump.com
Courtesy of donaldjtrump.com

The Republican Party continues to miss the mark when it comes to engaging the black community.

For those Republicans who fastidiously claim they don’t believe in “identity politics,” let me give you a piece of advice: Stop it!

Politically speaking, identity politics is a campaign that is based on the particular needs of a specific group of people that will give them the rationale or incentive to vote for your candidate.

For example, a Republican candidate would campaign in the black community on issues like entrepreneurship, civil rights, voting rights, etc., whereas the same candidate might campaign in the Hispanic community on issues like entrepreneurship, immigration and cultural assimilation.

Far too many Republicans assert that “we are all Americans and all want the same things: jobs, education, safe neighborhoods, etc.” This is all true, but a ridiculously bland message when it comes to outreach in the black community.

While core messaging should be a constant for all candidates, the way you communicate that message has to be crafted based on the audience you are addressing.

In business, we call this market segmentation. This is most often done with the STP approach — segmentation, targeting and positioning. Once you segment the voters, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc., you then create a targeted campaign to speak directly to each individual group; finally, you position your messaging in a way that will resonate with that group.

McDonald’s is a classic example. Their objective is to sell their Big Macs to the American people, so their TV commercials are all trying to convince the country to buy their product, but they also are smart enough to use identity politics or market segmentation to achieve their stated objective — selling more hamburgers.

So, it makes all the sense in the world for McDonald’s to use black actors when advertising on BET and Hispanic actors when advertising on Univision. This is the commercial application of identity politics.

When have you ever seen men selling women undergarments in Victoria’s Secret commercials? That’s right, you haven’t.

Republicans have become so data-driven that they no longer have any vision.

It’s not enough for Republicans to reflexively spout out buzz words and phrases like “We are the big tent party,” “the party of Abraham Lincoln,” “We believe in lower taxes, smaller government, more individual freedom,” yada, yada, yada.

Republicans must first and foremost persuade blacks that conservatism is not incompatible with civil rights, voting rights and equal opportunity, but rather these issues are a fundamental part of conservatism.

Republicans must, by their actions, demonstrate that black businesses tend to flourish when Republicans control the levers of government compared to when Democrats are in power.

I wrote about this, in 2012, in a piece I did for Black Enterprise. Democrats and the Obama administration have done very little for black-owned businesses over the last eight years.

Republicans have a huge opportunity to engage directly with the black community on the specific issue of entrepreneurship. Not only are these black businessmen fervent supporters of abolishing the capital gains tax, accelerated depreciation (writing off all capital purchases in year one) and lowering the corporate tax rate, but they also want to be relieved of all the onerous regulations imposed on them by Obama’s reign of terror on small and minority-owned businesses.

According to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, “Black buying power is $1.2 trillion; which would make black America the 15th largest economy in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).” That is equivalent to the size of Mexico.

Two years ago, the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic released a poll that was stunning. According to their poll, blacks represent the largest group in the country that believes the American dream “is attainable with hard work.”

So, to those Republicans who think that blacks are just waiting for more government programs and more handouts, I say, you’re wrong. The black community is open for business and willing to engage with the Republican Party, but when will the party address the issues we are interested in, not the issues that they think we’re interested in?

We need access to capital, our fair share of government contracts, which is mandated by law, a seat at the decision-making table and input in to policies that affect the economy.

And what will the party get in return for doing business with the black community? The party will see blacks voting for Republicans in double digits. The party will see a growth in financial contributions from leading businessmen, who currently see absolutely no value in contributing to Republican campaigns or entities. The party will also get fresh perspectives and new ideas from the top thinkers in the black community, who are also the “real” leaders within our community.

But most importantly, the party find that the black community is already in sync with its business agenda. The GOP simply needs to extend a sincere invitation.

Come on, Republicans. What in the hell do you have to lose?

Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future, a federally registered 527 super PAC established to get more blacks involved in the Republican Party.