Tuesday, March 25, 2014

KY Republicans Need to Continue Outreach to Minorities and Youth

Thomas Solwell's column today, on How Republicans Can Win Black Votes, reminded me of a bit of progress I observed recently.

The Jefferson County Republican Party tried something different this year.  Instead of a traditional Lincoln Day dinner,  a few weeks ago it hosted a "Party for the Party," complete with a band and a nominal entrance fee. The idea was to make the event fun and relaxed.  The genius of this approach is that it drew people who would not have paid to eat rubber chicken at a Lincoln Day dinner with a bunch of old white guys who all knew each other. This kind of outreach is key to the very survival of the Republican party.

So I was encouraged at the Party for the Party by the presence of Blacks and young people (teens and early 20's).  To be sure, there were not huge numbers of either group, but the presence of any is real progress, and we cannot let political correctness stop us from acknowledging this. 

One Black woman we spoke with observed that she is sick and tired of Democrats taking for granted that African-American voters will always vote for the Democrat. She therefore appreciated the real efforts that Sen. Rand Paul has made to court the Black vote.

Paul received considerable media coverage for speeches he has given to historically-Black colleges such as Simmons College and Howard University.  In addition to those speeches, however, Paul has quietly been meeting with African-American leaders on a continual basis.  That is how Paul came to recognize the importance of restoration of voting rights for felons who have served their time. He sat down and listened, and thereby learned that it matters deeply to members of the Black community.  Then he went to Frankfort and testified for and successfully lobbied for the necessary legislation to change Kentucky's constitution. In all likelihood, restoration of felony voting will help Democrats more than Republicans, at least in the foreseeable future.  Paul understood this and pressed on anyhow, because he thought it was the right thing to do.

As Sowell notes in his column, school choice is an issue where conservative principles can transform the lives of children -- disproportionately minority children -- stuck in failing schools that the teachers' unions oppose closing. This, too, is an issue that Paul has been vocal about, calling it the "civil rights issue of our day."

School choice (vouchers) and charter schools have a chance of becoming reality in Kentucky in the near future. Republicans stand poised to gain a majority in this state House come November, for the first time in nearly a century.  The House is the last obstacle to preventing school choice, given that it only takes a simple majority to override a veto by the governor here. And maybe we will get a Republican governor in 2015; Hal Heiner has been a strong proponent of school choice for years.

As for the young people at the Jefferson County Party for the Party, Paul gets some credit for speaking to issues that they care about:  that our profligate government is saddling them with debt and also invading their privacy.  Paul's recent speech at Cal Berkely shows that he is willing to go into unfriendly territory to grow the party. (Credit must also be given to the Nate Haney and his staff at the Jefferson County Republican Party for aggressively reaching out high school students as a new source of volunteers.)

Republicans have issues that can appeal to minorities and to Millenials. The Mainstream Media are not going to make our argument for us however.  Paul's outreach and the Jeff. Co. Party for the Party remind us that we must be willing to take the message to new venues, to new voters, to be innovative and welcoming.

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