The Republican Party is doing pretty well electorally with its current strategy of wooing an overwhelmingly White voting coalition while using tactics such as aggressive gerrymandering and voting restrictions to overcome its lack of a national majority or appeal to many voters of color. But sustaining this path in a diversifying nation — a trend underscored dramatically by the release this week of 2020 Census data — requires increasingly racist and antidemocratic actions and rhetoric. While my policy preferences are closer to those of the Democrats, I desperately want an avowedly multiracial and pro-democracy Republican Party that hasn’t given up on winning a majority of the national popular vote — because that would be best for the country
The Republicans can still become that party. How? I suggest Republicans think: “What would appeal to Black people who might currently vote Democratic but aren’t progressives?”
Millions of Black people have attitudes and values that in theory could push them toward backing the GOP, such as an emphasis on personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, favorable views toward religion and the military, and skepticism about left-wing policies like Medicare-for-all and death penalty abolition. But while White and Latino people who are conservative mostly back Republicans, Joe Biden won about 60 percent of the vote among Black voters with very conservative views on policy issues and about 80 percent among those who lean conservative, according to polling from the Democracy Fund Voter Story Group. Black voters who aren’t that progressive (so either moderate or conservative) are at most 6 percent of the total electorate, and many of them are fairly tied to the Democratic Party, so appealing to this group alone won’t lift the GOP to a majority. But a Republican Party that appeals to more moderate Black people will likely also be more appealing to more moderate voters of all races.
What would a Republican agenda for Black voters with some moderate and conservative views look like?
1. No more restrictive voter laws. A big reason that even Black people with more conservative inclinations have long backed Democrats is the perception that the Republican Party is hostile to Black people. Right now, that’s also reality — the GOP is constantly advocating voting laws that will have the effect of making it harder for Black people in particular to cast ballots and have their votes counted. This approach is toxic to winning over more than a tiny fraction of Black voters — and it turns off non-Black people too.
2. Embrace nondenominational church messaging. Basically all types of Christian churches have lost members over the past two decades except one: so-called nondenominational churches.
These kind of churches, located in suburban communities all over the country, generally oppose abortion rights and same-sex marriage and have a conservative theology overall. Most members vote Republican. That said, if you go to a nondenominational church, you’re aren’t likely to hear the pastor say anything negative from the pulpit about abortion, homosexuality or the Democratic Party (or anything at all). Instead, you will hear upbeat messages about how you can achieve your goals through a combination of faith in God and hard work.
I am not embracing the theology of these churches. But they tend to have multiracial, multiparty memberships, unlike most churches in the United States. It is a kind of soft conservatism — a Republicanism without the anger that you hear from people such as former president Donald Trump.
3. Back away from Fox News. Angry Republicanism is what you hear on Fox News and conservative talk radio and from Trump-allied Christian conservative leaders. This kind of Republicanism is centered around anxiety about the demographic changes that are making the country less White and Christian. Unsurprisingly, it often turns off even conservative-leaning Black people, other non-White Americans, LGBTQ people and younger voters in particular. It will be hard for Republicans to win the support of a majority of Americans if they remain obsessed with exciting Fox News viewers.