By RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
If you care about your child's education, or the freedom to worship as you see fit, or the emotional and financial toll of mass incarceration, then you should care about how the political parties are addressing these issues.
If you own or want to start a small business, seek an opportunity that will equip you with the tools to get from a low-paying job to a better one, or are frustrated by the taxes eating away at your piece of the American Dream, you should care whether the candidate you vote for will make matters better or worse.
For too long, some have peddled the idea that only one party cares about the social ills and racial disparities that are still too prevalent in society today. Not true. But for too long, Republicans have stood by and let the charge stand unchallenged. Not anymore.
Rich, poor or middle class, we know that the most pressing and persistent problems that matter to black Americans today are “education, jobs, and justice,” in the words of the National Urban League’s 2015 “State of Black America” report. In Washington and across the country, the Republican Party has real solutions to these very real problems—not just in theory but in practice. And here's why we think starting with less government means more for everyday wage earners, families and institutions of faith.
Start with education. America’s education system faces a crisis. We’re slipping behind in the world. But if you’re a black child in America, you likely face even greater challenges. The reality is, there are yawning achievement gaps between black students and white students. This is in no small part due to black students’ confinement to underperforming schools. And that’s why Republicans are such advocates for school choice, the simple yet powerful idea that all parents should have the freedom to choose a good school for their children.
Scholarships, like the DC Opportunity Scholarship or similar ones in a number of states, help parents afford a private school when their public school doesn’t meet their needs. Republicans have also expanded cost-free educational options through public charter schools and even virtual schools.
And while Democrats have stripped funding from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Republicans continue to advocate for the preservation of the very institutions that are equipping new generations of Frederick Douglasses and Mary McLeod Bethunes.
On the jobs front, Republican governors have gone to great lengths to break down the barriers to job creation and to help workers acquire the skills needed for today’s jobs.
On the federal level, Senator Tim Scott, for example, has an Opportunity Agenda, addressing both education and job training needs. Many of the proposals of his SKILLS Act were incorporated into a bipartisan job training bill, which the president signed last year. Other components of his agenda focus on energy jobs and expanding apprenticeship opportunities.
Finally, the issue of justice, one whose urgency seems to grow every day. From Senator Rob Portman’s Second Chance Act improving prisoner reentry to efforts by Republican congressmen to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in Congress are working to expand freedom and ensure justice.
At the state level, Republicans have led the way on sentencing reform, gaining bipartisan support for programs from Texas to Georgia to New Jersey that focus on rehabilitation, rather than punishment, for non-violent offenders.
To address the rising concerns of injustice at the hands of law enforcement, Republican Senators have stepped up to hold federal hearings on the use of body cameras and other urgently needed reforms.
Of course, education and jobs are themselves issues of justice, and Republicans have prioritized them accordingly. These are facts that you may not hear about often or ever, but the work continues as we strive to earn the trust of every voter.
That's why we're actively engaging in states like Ohio and cities like Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. In addition to our presence for the first, upcoming GOP presidential debate in Cleveland, expect to see RNC staff in your community, discussing our shared values and actively recruiting people from across the state. You will hear from us often and in media outlets like this one to share our message, mobilize new activists and ask for your vote.
With a presidential election process already underway, candidates for the Republican nomination will have an opportunity to outline the ways their specific policies would create more opportunity for black America—and actually address the chronic economic, health, education and social disparities.
Despite all this, some say that Republicans shouldn’t bother engaging with the black community. It’s a lost cause, they say, pointing to single-digit support in previous presidential elections. We disagree. We know when we engage, we win, and moreover black America wins. Just last November, in Ohio, one in four black men voted for your Republican governor. They voted their values. This kind of voter engagement can make a big difference. And given the opportunity to make the choice, black voters can help us open doors that expand opportunity for all.
As Chairman, I have made this a priority because no voter should be overlooked, and no voter should be taken for granted.
Just as the Urban League says of their own well-respected report, “We don’t have all the answers.” But Republicans are working hard to address the most pressing concerns of the day, and we are eager to find common ground wherever we can.