RNC chairman Reince Priebus has announced a big new effort to appeal to minority voters. It is the latest in a long series of such efforts. From Black Enterprise, July 1980:
It hit Bill Brock squarely in the face Tuesday, November 2, 1976. He was a Republican senator from Tennessee, but on that day more than 130,000 black voters sent him to the unemployment line and gave Democrat James Sasser a new career. Later, when Brock became chairman of the Republican National Committee, one of his top priorities was to break the Democratic party's death grip on black Americans.
It was not Brock's defeat alone (he lost by 77,949 votes) that triggered the Republican party's rediscovery of the black vote. On that same day in 1976, President Gerald Ford narrowly lost the White House to political novice Jimmy Carter. The black vote made the difference. Ford made no real effort to secure it, while Carter had.
In January 1978, when some political pundits were talking seriously about the extinction of the Republican Party, Brock invited Rev. Jesse Jackson, a die-hard Democrat, to speak before the Republican National Committee. The invitation itself was a radical step to bridge the gap between the GOP and black voters. "Black people need the Republican party to compete for our votes, so that we can have real alternatives. The Republican Party needs black people if it is ever to compete for national office or, in fact, to keep it from becoming an extinct national party," Jackson said.
His challenge to black America was equally pragmatic: "We [blacks] must pursue a strategy that prohibits one party from taking us for granted and another party from writing us off."
Jackson got a standing ovation from the white, over-30 audience gathered to hear him, and the GOP campaign to woo black votes was off in a wave of bravado. Now, in the midst of a presidential election, there are a few signs that the Republican party has gotten down to some particulars.In 1980, Reagan got 11 percent of the black vote. In 1984, even while he was winning a huge popular margin and carrying 49 states, he got 9 percent.
- The RepublicanNational Committee has a full-time staff to recruit blacks and to help local and national candidates campaign in the black community.
- Both Ronald Reagan and George Bush have at least one black campaign staffer responsible for linking the candidates's platforms to issues of concern to black.