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The timing of the GOP’s outreach to Black voters could be better

The GOP appears to be a party that wants to end up with more support from Black voters, not a party that intends to earn more support from Black voters.


The Hill reported a few weeks ago that Republicans are trying to “make inroads with Black voters ahead of November’s midterm elections.” GOP officials, the article added, believe the party’s “recruitment and messaging strategies stand to resonate with the crucial voting bloc.” Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a related report:

In rising inflation, stratospheric gas prices, lingering frustrations over Covid and new anxieties over the war in Ukraine, Republicans see a fresh opening, after the Obama and Trump eras, to peel away some Black voters who polls show are increasingly disenchanted with the Biden administration.

The basic premise here is straightforward: The public isn’t satisfied with the status quo; Democrats are in power; so the national electorate, which obviously includes Black voters, might be more willing to give Republican candidates a fresh look.

To be sure, the GOP’s assumptions might very well be true. It’s tough to say with any confidence what the political landscape will look like six months from now, but it’s certainly possible that Republicans will make gains across the board, including in communities of color.

That said, the GOP’s timing could be better.

In recent weeks, for example, voters saw Senate Republicans go after Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — who will soon become the nation’s first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court — with “barely coded appeals to racism.”

At the same time, Republicans at the state level are trying to maximize their partisan electoral advantages by carving up largely Black congressional districts for the express purpose of weakening African-American political power.

This comes on the heels of two congressional Republicans participating in a white nationalist event — after which GOP leaders decided not to do anything about it.

Last year, Republicans used their power to make it more difficult for Black voters to cast ballots. Shortly before that, Donald Trump and his allies fought to overturn his defeat by disenfranchising Black voters. And shortly before that, the incumbent GOP president ran for re-election by promoting videos of Black people committing crimes and repeatedly insisting that a Black senator would join the Biden administration and put low-income housing projects in American suburbs.

Subtle, it was not.

So why is it, exactly, that GOP officials — a group far more eager to use critical race theory as a divisive wedge than offer substantive ideas about inflation — are of the opinion that Black voters will shift in significant numbers toward Republican candidates anyway?

It’s possible that the party is simply working from the assumption that voters’ memories are short and by November, communities of color won’t focus on things such as GOP senators’ mistreatment of Jackson. Just as likely, Republicans might also believe that Black voters will be willing to overlook the party’s racist tactics and tendencies because gas prices are high and the pandemic isn’t over.

But all things considered, this appears to be a party that wants to end up with more support from Black voters, not a party that intends to earn more support from Black voters.