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Posts Tagged ‘voters’ rights’

A New Month: New Steps of Action or Accentuating the Status Quo?

In Articles on June 3, 2013 at 4:37 pm
Gov VA and Pres NAACP

“As Americans we believe in second chances and we believe in the right to vote,” stated Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. “We commend Governor McDonnell for his courageous leadership to restore the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of Virginians…Anyone who has made a mistake, done their time and paid their debt to society should be able to join their neighbors at the voting booth.”

With a groundbreaking move by the Gov. Bob McDonnell that was publicly commended by the NAACP and other Black leaders last week, can the GOP finally seize any momentum to reel in Black voters?

 

Since the unnerving election losses of November 2012, Republicans have been looking for win-win situations that will allow them to approach, engage, and win over Black voters to reverse a years-long trend of losing the Black vote at a 10-to-1 clip to Democrats at all election levels. With each new initiative – from the roll-out of Michael Steele’s “Say It Loud” program that aided big GOP wins during the 2010 midterm election to efforts by various Black Republican organizations to heighten conservative principles – there has usually been an accompanying incident to hamper any move to gain ground with the Black vote.

 

Last Wednesday’s decision by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is one that can move the needle in the opposite direction, perhaps serving as a bridge for Black voters and the GOP to finally begin walking towards common ground.

 

McDonnell’s announcement that he will, on an individualized basis, reinstate the voting rights of Virginia’s non-violent ex-felons upon completion of all terms of their sentences was greeted with complimentary praise by the NAACP and other Black leaders nationally alike.  Due to the imbalanced nature of the prison population in Virginia (as well as other states) being skewed towards impacting the Black community more than others, this change in suffrage is a noteworthy step in the right direction that should be mirrored around the nation.

 

If the Republican Party is paying attention and is genuine about gaining ground on the minority voting blocs in time for the 2014 midterms, the 2016 presidential election, and beyond, this is an opportunity that they must jump on immediately. There are several significant reasons why the RNC, its operatives, and politicians should move forward with using this move by McDonnell as a stepping stone to reverse the media perception and political reality that the GOP will remain a non-option for Black voters.

 

For starters, the instant potential creation of thousands of Black voters that have been disengaged with the current political minutia during their period of incarceration creates an opportunity to engage new voters that have been let down (in many regards) by the status quo of politics – a status quo that overwhelmingly has African-Americans living under Democratic elected officials. With a genuine effort to embrace, mentor, and develop a new segment of second-chance Americans with policies that will make their transitions successful as small businessmen or rehabilitated re-hires, the GOP can make the case that Republicans are willing to create environments where “bootstrap pulling” efforts by these individuals works. These efforts – which would include making it easier for small businessmen and workers to gain access to local work and necessary capital as viable blue-collar entities – would provide more promise and opportunity to a different future than the current trend of recidivism and government assistance that often awaits those coming back into society.

 

As well, actively looking for ways to appropriately partner with legacy African-American organizations removes the casted label that Republicans are in opposition to organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League, and others along with their national leaders.  As long as this perception remains, it is also perceived that the GOP not only stands against these organizations, but that it also stands against the Black constituents that they regularly interact with.

 

Too often, the Republican Party (and many Blacks within the conservative movement as well) consider such partnerships a waste of time, feeling as though the best move is to start from square one with the Black community in the process of establishing trust-based relationships. Aside from the oft-occurring references to the “Democratic Plantation” and other insulting slave analogies, the belief that it is easier to compete from scratch in the midst of Republican missteps against years of trust is a mindset that can be reversed, leveraging the McDonnell move in Virginia as an example of common ground initiatives that both Republicans and Black civil rights-focused Americans can embrace.  For example, between four of the most-renowned Black equal rights organizations through the nation (the NAACP, the Urban League, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and the National Action Network), African-Americans have built up a particular trust level over the combined 271 years of activism that these organizations have offered. To constantly compete 100% against this mountain of established political capital – regardless of their past errors or flawed positions – only serves as an ingredient for a recipe of on-going failures to re-engage the Black vote. Using conservative perspectives to partner with legacy Black organizations on key policy shifts from ex-felon suffrage to urban employment initiatives provide the GOP the best opportunity to remove the “boogeyman” label that it carries within the Black voting base while providing policy grounds to make it viable as a voting option.

 

Despite the common perceptions on race and politics in the Era of Obama, there are opportunities that allow for future oft-occurring partnership between Black America and the Republican Party to make sense. Governor McDonnell and the move to allow those that paid their debts to society to be fully empowered as citizens is but one example that, with some innovative open-mindedness and political savvy, the Republican Party can heal their past with Black voters and leverage present opportunities where the Black community needs partners – all while creating better results at the ballot box in the future.

 

Lenny McAllister is the “Working Man’s Conservative” that is a talented media personality, public speaker, writer, author, and rising leader that has “… a mission to make positive changes to the status quo within politics, societal matters, and other issues that hamper our American way of life …” Lenny has been featured at Tea Party rallies and other conservative events from Springfield, IL to Boston, MA, Phoenix, AZ, and points in between.  Featured as one of the “40 Under 40 to Watch in 2012” by the historic newspaper The Chicago Defender, he has been featured in several publications, including Essence, Chicago Crusader, and Charlotte Magazine. “The McAllister Minute,” a regular feature of the American Urban Radio Network, runs on more than 300 stations nationwide.