During an interview on a popular radio station with a black host and a large number of black listeners Friday morning, Joe Biden did what Joe Biden does — said something stupid and kind of racist.
"If you're having a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black," Biden told host Charlamagne tha God, after the host told Biden he had some more questions for him.
"If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black." Oh really, Joe. https://t.co/IsegjgjV14— Lawrence B. Jones III (@Lawrence B. Jones III)1590152359.0
I can't think of a clearer example of Democrats taking the black vote for granted. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee telling a black man that if he's not sure he wants to vote Democrat, then he's not black.
Many black voters won't appreciate that kind of rhetoric, even if they consider themselves Democrats. You don't get to define someone's racial identity based on whether they agree with your politics. And if you think black people are going to vote for you just because of their skin color, you're not going to be motivated to pursue policies that help them.
What an opportunity here for the Grand Old Party heading into the 2020 election. Black Democrats are already more moderate than other demographics within the party. Pew Research found that 68% of black Democrats consider themselves either moderate or conservative. Now you've got Joe Biden openly telling black people they should be voting for him because they're black.
But will the Republican Party take advantage? Neither the moderate leanings of black Democrats nor the lazy approach to black voters by the Democratic Party are new, and yet a recent poll showed Biden beating Trump with black voters by a margin of 81% to 3%. What can be done to improve that?
Don't replicate Democrats' mistake. Meaning, don't take the stance of "Look how bad they are, so you should just come join our side." Negative arguments aren't winning arguments in this case. Biden's racism may be offensive enough to cause a black Democratic voter to be turned off from voting for Biden, but it probably isn't enough, on its own, to turn that voter into a Republican voter. Make a positive case for voting for conservative candidates.
Don't try to be color-blind. The opposite of racism isn't color-blindness. I'm black. I like being black. I care about things that affect black people in a unique way, because I'm black. Black voters care about black issues, and are looking for leaders who will fight for solutions to those issues. Show them how conservative policies and values, applied equally and appropriately, create those solutions to issues that impact the black community. Bonus tip: Crime isn't the only issue in the black community.
Charlamagne's response to Biden during that interview is important.
"It don't have nothing to do with Trump, it has to do with the fact I want something for my community," he replied.
Choose your ambassadors wisely. The public faces of black conservatism, the ones sent to advocate on behalf of the Republican Party, should be connected to the black community. They must care about the black community. They must respect the black community, and have the ability to earn respect in return.
If you can't empathize with someone's perspective and demonstrate real, personal respect, you're unlikely to be able to convince them of your own perspective. Winning an argument is not the same thing as effective outreach. This quote from the 2012 Republican "autopsy" applies here: "You can't call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you."
The opportunity is there for the Republican Party to gain ground with black voters. The understanding of what to do is there (on paper). Will the Republican Party take advantage this time around? We'll see.