On Saturday, Sept.10, I had the pleasure of being one of the featured speakers for the inaugural Liberty Farm Festival hosted by my good friend Martha Boneta. It was the last gathering of the who’s who of Virginia politics before this year’s presidential election. Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was the keynote speaker.
There were hundreds, if not thousands of Republicans from across Virginia in attendance. After my speech, I received a standing ovation for my remarks. My speech was, in essence, a recitation of many of the columns I have written over the years about the party needing to get serious about building relationships with the Black community.
Once I left the stage, the audience mobbed me; they wanted to talk with me and get my business card. Then I had a stunning revelation: The Republican Party’s base and rank-and-file members are not the problem — our leadership is the problem.
There is a huge disconnect between the base of our party and the leadership of our party. Everyone that wanted to speak with me after my speech all agreed that the party needed to engage more substantively with the Black community, and they admitted that they needed help in this regard and asked could they meet with me to discuss further in the not-too-distant future; of course I told them all “yes.”
These people represented the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), as well as local and county parties. Their thirst to increase the diversity within our party was heartfelt and real.
As I have stated many times before, the national party is totally incapable and uninterested in pursuing an honest engagement with the Black community. If it is to happen, it will happen from the ground up and from the outside in.
The base of the party is willing to be led down the path of engagement with the Black community by Blacks like me, as opposed to national party leaders who think they know more about the Black community than Blacks.
I often tell people: “Never try to explain your vision to anyone, but rather invite them to stand beside you and to see for themselves.”
For more than 25 years, I have invited our national leaders to stand beside me and to see for themselves. Many have stood beside me, but most couldn’t see my vision. They have eyes, but can’t see; they have ears, but can’t hear.
Transformative change rarely happens from those with all the fancy titles. Rosa Parks was the spark that led to the Birmingham bus boycotts of the sixties, thus increasing the stature of a little-known preacher by the name of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Spencer Haywood was a little-known college basketball player who wanted to play in the NBA without finishing his four years of collegiate eligibility that the NBA mandated at the time, birthing the free agency business model in the 1970s.
The more I travel and speak with “regular” people, the more optimistic I feel about the future of our party and the more convinced I am that Donald Trump still can win this election.
Yes, Trump has his shortcomings, but don’t we all? Trump on his worst day is better the Hillary Clinton on her best day.
The base of the party is the solution to this seemingly intractable problem with the Black vote. The grassroots are more than willing to take advice as how to build the necessary relationships with the Black community. The base of the party is willing to admit that they need guidance from within the Black community, from political operatives with campaign experience, not from those Blacks who make them feel good.
The base of the party is thirsting for the time when America was truly great. Historically, America has been at its greatest when Blacks were actively embraced by the Republican Party. After Lincoln freed the slaves, Blacks were universally aligned with the Republican Party.
In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower received almost 40 percent of the Black vote. President Eisenhower integrated the U.S. military and later supported the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Even in Richard Nixon’s 1960 loss to Kennedy, he received a third of the Black vote. Nixon was a staunch supporter of civil rights, notwithstanding his later support for the “Southern Strategy.”
Despite the fact that former President George W. Bush nominated successive Black secretaries of state and did more for the continent of Africa than the sum total of all previous U.S. presidents combined, he only received 11 percent of the Black vote.
Bypassing the national party structure seems to me to be the only realistic alternative. After all, is this not consistent with conservative thinking? Power should be given to those closest to the people, not hoarded by the “suits” in Washington, D.C.
If our party leadership feels this way about the role of the federal government, shouldn’t we view their leadership through the same lens?
Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party. For more information about BAFBF, visit bafbf.org. You can follow Raynard on Twitter @Raynard1223.