Can the GOP Do Right by Black Voters This Election? Yes—Follow Trump’s Lead

Black voters are disillusioned. According to the Democratic polling firm Catalist, Black voter turnout dropped to pre-Obama levels in the most recent election.

I understand the frustration. Underserved Black communities continue to face disparities dating back to Reconstruction. While it’s been declining over recent decades, the unemployment rate for Black Americans is still almost double that of white Americans. Violent crime disproportionately affects our neighborhoods. And intergenerational trauma, compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken a toll on our health and vitality.

After decades of voting overwhelmingly Democrat, maybe Black Americans are coming to the conclusion that it’s time for a change. But for Republicans want to win over Black voters and do right by them, candidates and lawmakers must adopt a policy platform focused on expanding opportunity to underserved communities.

Luckily, such a plan already exists.

Back in 2020, my colleagues at the Trump White House and I partnered with legendary rapper Ice Cube on the most comprehensive proposal to empower the Black community ever formulated. We called it the “Platinum Plan.”

Unfortunately, the Biden administration scrapped most of the $500 billion initiative’s substantive investments in the Black community. President Biden instead decided Black Americans would be satisfied with establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. And while I support the holiday, this isn’t the meaningful change that can revitalize our historically underserved communities.

Black republicans
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump are seen in Mankato, Minnesota on August 17, 2020, as the president delivers remarks on jobs and the economy.
Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty

The driving force behind the Platinum Plan as well as my own book Underserved was the recognition that Democrats are not interested in delivering meaningful change that heals communities from the bottom-up rather than the top-down.

President Biden’s handling of the Platinum Plan made his priorities clear, so it will be up to the GOP to offer long-suffering Americans solutions.

At the top of the list, Republican lawmakers should adopt a “smart-on-crime” strategy. Violent crime is still up since before the pandemic, and Black Americans account for more than half of all homicide victims while making up just 14 percent of the population. Black communities overwhelmingly rejected the notion of “defunding the police” after George Floyd‘s murder in 2020. Instead, they want proven solutions that will both keep their communities safe and ensure fair treatment by law enforcement.

The Platinum Plan recognized the importance of criminal justice reform for Black communities. It contained provisions to expand upon the historic First Step Act, improve police training, advance second-chance hiring for people with a criminal record, and create a National Clemency Program to reunite families—policies that help police keep our streets safe and decrease recidivism.

In addition to adopting these criminal justice policies, policymakers should examine cities such as Dallas, which has experienced an impressive two-year drop in crime by implementing proven strategies such as focused deterrence.

Along with public safety, health is the other cornerstone necessary for thriving communities. Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by diseases like diabetes, Sickle Cell, and cancer. And Black mothers face a maternal mortality rate close to three times that of their white counterparts.

Republican policymakers should adopt Platinum Plan-esque plans to invest in research into these diseases, improve access to telemedicine and other technologies to make healthcare more accessible, and promote public-private partnerships to develop healthcare centers in low-income areas.

But the most ambitious goals of the Platinum Plan were to create 500,000 new Black-owned businesses and 3 million new jobs for the Black community over four years. How? By increasing access to capital for Black-owned businesses by expanding funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Similar to banks, these entities are specifically designed to support access to capital for underserved communities. They even offer technical assistance on loan counseling, business planning, and home-buying to increase financial literacy and spur generational wealth-building.

The jobs component was also designed to be supported by a dedicated corporate onshoring plan and tax cuts for Black-owned businesses. Private-public partnerships were key, including strategic mentor-protégé lending relationships and quarterly accountability meetings with major banks.

The new plan should be just as comprehensive.

Republicans need not be concerned about increased government spending. During my time at the White House, I worked with the Office of Management and Budget to parse through existing government programs. We identified countless defunct programs from prior administrations along with their unused dollars that could have easily been re-routed to fund the bulk of the Platinum Plan.

A key element of the Platinum Plan was that it included specific action items to create the accountability needed to follow through on political promises. That will be a critical component in any new plan as well.

Republicans must demonstrate to voters that they are serious about not just talking the talk but walking the walk. As such, a comprehensive plan for the Black community that addresses the fundamental issues of public health and safety as well as jobs and entrepreneurship will be critical for any Republican candidate looking to win over voters next November.

Ja’Ron Smith, who leads the Public Safety Solutions for America coalition, was the 2020 recipient of the Bipartisan Justice Award for his work in the Trump administration and is co-author of the forthcoming book “Underserved: Harnessing the Principles of Lincoln’s Vision for Reconstruction for Today’s Forgotten Communities.”

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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