Republicans Can Win Back the Black Vote

Republicans can definitely do better when addressing issues of race.

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Using congressional vote ratings and electoral analysis, they show how the transformation of the two national parties into a "liberal" party (the Democrats) and a "conservative" party (the Republicans) drove the regional realignment. Conservative rural districts moved into the GOP column first. Urban districts, which over time became majority minority congressional seats, stayed with the Democrats. The suburban swing districts, meanwhile, moved from Democrat to Republican as the people representing them began voting more like national Democrats instead of Southern ones.

All this is intriguing as a back story, but it doesn't explain how the GOP got into its current predicament. It does, however, point the way out. The party is unable to tell this rather simple story in a way that is convincing, explaining – especially to the African-American electorate – the real story of the Democrats, the Republicans and race. Therefore it is still too easy to believe, as Jesse Jackson once charged, the oft-repeated untruth that Ronald Reagan began his post-1980 election campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., near where three civil rights workers were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964, as some kind of "deliberate, secret signal" to white voters.

With things like that hanging over them, it's no wonder they have trouble winning black votes. To change things, the GOP has to start over with black America, retelling its story using spokespeople with sufficient "street cred" to sell it. The GOP can win the battle of ideas, can become the party of hope, growth and opportunity for everyone, but it will take a lot more than platitudes from Washington to make people believe it.

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