Jackson’s confirmation aside, the GOP sees an opening with black voters

The spectacle created by Republican senators with presidential ambitions as they thrashed the first black woman nominated to the Supreme Court—after 47 Republicans voted against her Thursday—could make the party look like black women this November. Vote was written.

away with. In rising inflation, gas prices in the stratosphere, lingering gloom over COVID-19 and renewed concerns about the war in Ukraine, Republicans see a new opening, in the post-Obama and Trump era, to ward off some black voters who Polls show they are increasingly disillusioned. Biden Administration.

Thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans don’t need to win over as many black voters to influence a handful of races, and dozens of black Republican House candidates — a record number of them — are reshaping the party’s pitch. are.

In any case, the Republican treatment of Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, was a testament to the party’s belief that between so many powerful political forces and more consuming objects of public attention, his handling of the confirmation did not matter. It takes a lot

“I think black people would pull it off if they weren’t voting for Republican anyway, no matter what,” said Wesley Hunt, a black military veteran and Republican newcomer to politics who lives in a dark red Texas House. Running for the seat.

Senate Republican leaders warned allies ahead of the confirmation battle to keep proceedings civil and amicable, clearly concerned that the sight of a phalanx of white Republican inquisitors would turn voters off in an election year. But if Democrats still believe that Jackson’s rude behavior will excite black voters to come out and vote Democratic in large numbers this November, it looks like they will be disappointed.

For frustrated voters of all colors who are struggling to pay their bills and fill their tanks, November’s vote could be a chance to vote against the party in power.

“We are not a pillar of stone,” said Jennifer-Ruth Green, a black Air Force veteran who is running for Congress in northwestern Indiana as a Republican. “We look at inflation and gas prices. Voters are not fools.”

In Gary, Indiana, Roshaun Knowles, 42, a cosmetologist at Bilco’s Barber Shop, summarizes how the confirmation hearings will go as she considers her vote this fall. She said she felt dismayed as an accomplished black woman was questioned by white senators who she believed lacked Jackson’s intelligence and chivalry.

“To be in a room full of white people to ask him questions about what he learned and what he’s capable of doing — you know, it didn’t sit well with me,” Knowles said. “He should have been treated as a white man,” she said.

But, she said, the vaccine mandate cost her a job as a property manager for a housing authority after she refused to take the shot. Incentive checks kept many people out of the workforce. And President Joe Biden? “He’s not doing anything,” she said. “what has he done?”

Knowles said she was leaning toward voting Republican this fall, as she did in 2020, when she voted for Donald Trump after voting for Hillary Clinton four years ago and Barack Obama twice .

Republicans on the campaign trail and on the airwaves are tarnishing the image of a faltering Democratic leadership that has no clue how to deal with economic uncertainty, a persistent pandemic and rising crime. When Republican officials are asked about the party’s strategy toward black voters, they certainly ask some Black Republican elected officials and candidates to make pitches.

But clearly, Black Republican candidates like Greene and John James, who are running for the Michigan House seat, aren’t advertising their party affiliations, only their biographies—a sign that the party brand remains toxic in some corners. Is. And the Republican outreach effort does little more than capture black discontent with Democrats.

Paris Dennard, the Republican National Committee’s director of black media affairs, said the party has opened eight community centers nationwide to engage black voters. He said a candidate like Hunt is proof that the party’s message is driving black Republicans to run.

But a message focused on the shortcomings of Democrats deprives black voters of hearing about the policies they really want, says Leah Wright Rigueur, author of “The Loneliness of the Black Republicans: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power.” said.

“It’s an incredibly effective strategy, but it’s also insidious,” said Riguere, an associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. “It only works when there is dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party.”

However, it also works with black voters, who were remarkably united behind the Democratic Party during the Obama and Trump years.

“I don’t think Biden is even really in office,” Robert Sanders said as echoing criticism from the political right about the 79-year-old president giving Gary a haircut. “I feel like he’s being carried through the office.”

The softening of Biden’s approval among black voters is a clear warning to Democrats. Presidential approval among black registered voters fell to 62% in March, up from 83% in an NBC News poll last summer and was not affected by the Supreme Court battle, said Bill McEnterf of Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm. who conducted the survey. With Democratic firm Heart Research.

The percentage of black voters in the poll who said they strongly accepted the president’s performance fell to 28% last month, up from 46% between April and August last year. And the intensity of support predicts turnout in elections.

Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who is Black, said elections in the days before Obama activating black voters positively were turning upside down and Trump activating them negatively. Before 2008, he said, it was common for 12-14% of black voters to vote Republican.

“The lack of energy levels among young voters, especially young African Americans, is more problematic,” Belcher said, noting that in 2018 young voters of color outnumbered Democrats in the House. “It’s not the excited, disappointed, disappointed, young voter right now, more like the voters of 2014 and 2010 than in 2018 – and that’s devastating.”

Democratic officials say they are responding with black voter mobilization projects that have begun earlier than in previous midterm cycles. Last spring, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hired organizers in five battlefield states to focus on key Democratic constituencies. On Thursday, the committee announced a new round of ad purchases with black news outlets.

Chris Taylor, a committee spokesman, said attempts by Republicans to court black voters were fraudulent, given the party’s voting records on pandemic relief, criminal justice reform and clean air and water legislation.

“Almost every Republican in Congress opposed our priorities,” said Taylor, who is black.

Because of Gerrymandered District Lines, most Republican candidates for the House are not required to have many – if any – black voters. But in districts like Indiana’s before, with their narrow Democratic leanings and a Republican target at their back, a Republican challenger would need to chime in with black voters, or at least hope for a softer turnout for Democrats.

Jackson’s harsh reception does not seem to threaten that hope. Even black voters who carefully watched the hearing were surprisingly pardoning their Republican inquisitors.

“I don’t think he was treated fairly,” said Greg Fleming, 72, a financial advisor at Gary. “But that’s the way things are in this country. In today’s environment, unfortunately, this is to be expected.”

Like Indiana’s first, Georgia’s second district is still Democratic, but if a candidate can add to his rural Black vote, he has a strong chance. Jeremy Hunt, an Army veteran and black candidate running in the Republican primary, to challenge Rep. Sanford Bishop, a long-serving Democrat who is also black, the Supreme Court is not part of his calculus. .

“We can talk about Republicans versus Democrats, but ultimately, that’s not what voters want to hear from us as leaders,” Hunt said. “There’s a big temptation at different levels to get involved in things on a national scale and what’s happening to it, you know, but a big part of our campaign is keeping it local.”

Still, when he talks about local farmers and truck drivers, Hunt said, he always comes back around the economy, gas prices, and inflation.

According to an NBC News poll, black voters were most likely to say they were personally lagging behind because of inflation. And it’s raising concerns that Republicans are eager to exploit.

Florida Representative Byron Donalds, one of two black Republicans in the House, said: “We have rich black people. We have rich white people. We have poor black people. We have poor white people. If you’re poor in the United States, you’re going to feel the effects of $4.30 of gasoline. You are feeling the impact of domestic heating oil prices which are up 60%. You’re feeling the effects of meat and bread and milk, which are increasing dramatically.”

Donalds said he has seen most of Jackson’s hearing and has not seen anything that requires Republicans to apologize.

“They didn’t even once go into her personal life,” he said. “They never went into her personal background. He was never accused of his character. ,

With Democrats dismayed and Republicans offering a weaker alternative, some black voters said they did not know where to turn politically.

In Gary, Fleming said he is concerned about the growing power of the Democratic Left. But until more Republicans dropped their “conspiracy theories” and extreme comments, he said, they weren’t much of an option.

“I mean, they thought whatever happened on January 6th was AOK? That’s crazy,” Fleming said. “If a Mitt Romney-type Republican ran, I might go for him. But Republicans, they are on another planet right now. I can’t even call them far and wide. They’re defying gravity.”

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