GOP Comes To Detroit, Trying To Win Over Black Voters

Rand Paul Republican Black Voters
Rand Paul

AFRICANGLOBE – Today, Detroit has the eye of the Republican Party.

The state Republican Party will open an African American Engagement Office as part of a nationwide effort to reach out to Black voters. Then, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. — expected by many to run for president in 2016 — will outline a plan to the Detroit Economic Club to get the bankrupt city back on its feet by slashing taxes.

Along with a grassroots event featuring Paul at Grace Bible Chapel on Oakman, the moves are designed to help support a Republican plan to connect with Black voters who widely rejected the party in last year’s presidential election.

“If we expect to win national elections, we have to talk to all coalitions of voters,” said state Republican Chairman Bobby Schostak. “The Black community is a meaningful, important coalition, and we ought to be expressing where we have shared values. … Shame on us for not engaging earlier.”

But it hasn’t been an entirely smooth start for the Republicans’ efforts, which grew out of a national plan unveiled in March that called for greater outreach to minority communities, especially in urban areas all but abandoned to Democrats.

On Sunday, the Republican National Committee took fire for a tweet remembering civil rights icon Rosa Parks “and her role in ending racism” on the anniversary of her refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a White patron in 1955. The party quickly retracted the tweet, saying it meant to remember her “role in fighting to end racism.”

Kiara Pesante, the Democratic National Committee’s director of African American media, said the GOP effort is unlikely to have much of an effect if its policies would cut government services many Black voters rely on, and its candidates support changes that could restrict minority voting rights.

“You can open as many offices and hire as much staff as you want, but if your policies aren’t going to make their lives better, you’re really missing the mark,” she said.

A Plan To Cut Taxes

But Paul, who famously said this summer a federal bailout for Detroit would occur “over my dead body,” comes to the city with a plan he says could attract new business by letting companies and residents pay less in taxes.

His plan would slash individual and corporate income taxes — to a flat 5% rate — in ZIP codes across the U.S. with unemployment rates 1½times the national rate, which is currently 7.3%. Detroit’s unemployment rate is about 18%.

Paul’s plan would also cut capital gains taxes and give exemptions to prevailing wage rates on public projects in what he’s calling “economic freedom zones.” He said he didn’t yet have specifics on how much money could return to Detroit under such a proposal but said he would discuss that today .

“It adds up. It becomes a significant amount of money over time,” Paul said. “The money is going into the hands of the individuals who earned it.”

Any such plan would likely face a difficult road with government already holding back spending increases. But while U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., remains skeptical about any plan that could cut taxes on wealthy individuals or companies, he said there are aspects of Paul’s plan that could be “helpful.”

Joshua Pugh, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, called Paul’s proposal a “special interest handout plan.”

More Outreach Efforts To Black Voters

In March, the Republican National Committee unveiled its “Growth & Opportunity Project,” saying its federal wing was “marginalizing” itself and there was a good reason minority voters were rejecting it: The party did too little to reach out to members of those communities.

“If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms, and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case,” the document said.

Already, an African-American outreach center has opened in Charlotte, N.C., and the party — at the national and state levels — has added staff to coordinate efforts to open discussions with Black voters. While such outreach offices aren’t exactly new, the timing is — they typically open in the middle of an election year.

More offices are expected to be opened in other cities in the months to come.

Schostak said the Detroit office will have a staff of four or five, plus volunteers. He said they will try to build relationships “neighborhood by neighborhood” and let people know they want to be part of the solution in Detroit.

The party has increasingly looked to entrepreneurial and business efforts — the redevelopment program of Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert is an example — as perhaps the most promising ways to get the city back on its feet and create jobs.

“We want to be sure Detroit prospers and comes out of the bankruptcy as quickly as possible and is turned back over to its elected leaders,” said Schostak, while praising Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to let the city’s emergency manager file for bankruptcy.

Pesante said the GOP has to do more than talk to Detroit’s voters, it has to change its policies. “I think their actions speak much louder than their words,” she said.


By: Todd Spangler