It’s not your grandfather’s Republican Party anymore.
If you think the Republican Party is made up entirely of old white men, you need to take another look at the cover of this newspaper.
I noticed an increase in the number of non-white faces at the Guilford County Republican Party Lincoln Reagan Dinner a couple weeks ago and wrote a short piece about it. Guilford County Republican Party Chairman and District 57 state House candidate Troy Lawson, who is black, called me up to say he was glad I had noticed and that increasing the diversity of the Republican Party was something he had been working on.
He also offered to invite a group of diverse Republicans up to Republican headquarters on Sunday, May 27. The question posed to the group was, “Why are you a Republican?”
Probably the most well-known member of the group was Clarence Henderson, whose history in the civil rights movement goes back to the Greensboro sit-ins. Henderson became involved in the sit-ins at the Woolworth lunch counter on day two. He wasn’t there on Feb. 1, 1960, but he is in one of the most famous photos of the sit-ins of four black men at the lunch counter that was taken on Feb. 2.
Henderson appeared with President Donald Trump at campaign rallies, so there is no question where his political allegiance lies today.
Henderson said that he became a Republican when George W. Bush was president. He said he was disturbed by what happened to the country during the eight years Barack Obama was president and said, “Then, here was this phenomenon who would stand up for the people called Trump.”
Henderson said, “Look at what the Democratic Party has done for blacks. Nothing.” He said that charter schools were more important for black students than students of other races because of the poor quality of schools in black neighborhoods, but the Democrats oppose them.
Henderson said, “The only reason the Democrats want the illegal immigrants here is for the votes.”
He said, “The Republican Party is the only party that stands up for the Constitution.”
As far as Trump goes, Henderson said, “Don’t pay attention to what he says; pay attention to what he does. Look at what the man has accomplished. He’s doing a great, great job.”
Lawson, who is from Boston, never had to switch parties because before he could vote he started working for Massachusetts Republican Sen. Edward Brooke, the first black popularly elected US senator. Lawson said that every time he has moved, he’s gone to the local Republican headquarters and become involved.
He also said that he knew Trump was going to win because the people were coming to the doors of Guilford County Republican headquarters in droves wanting Trump signs, T-shirts, hats, anything with Trump on it. He said once he even sold the signs in the windows because the group was so fired up for Trump.
Lawson said, “Look at this group. This party is working very hard to bring people in. I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”
Henderson said that he was working with a group that was trying to get 10 percent of black voters registered Republican. He said, “In my mind, all black voters ought to be Republicans.”
Another participant was Mark Robinson, who became an internet sensation after he spoke at an April Greensboro City Council meeting in support of the Second Amendment and the video clip of that speech went viral. As a result, Robinson has appeared on Fox News and been interviewed by news organizations all over the country.
Robinson said that he was talking to someone about Trump and said, “He’s a racist.” The person he was talking to asked why he said that and Robinson replied that everybody knew Trump was a racist. But he said it also got him thinking. Robinson said he got Trump’s book and, when he was reading it, he thought, “This dude is me. These are things I’ve been believing my whole life.”
Robinson said he realized he had been just believing what other people told him and what he had needed was to get some facts.
He said he realized, “The Democratic Party has always been wrong. It was wrong about slavery. It was wrong during the civil rights movement and it’s been detrimental to the people of the country and particularly for blacks.”
Former Greensboro City Councilmember Jim Kee said, “Becoming a Republican for me was an evolution.” He said he was a Democrat because his grandmother was a Democrat, so everyone in the family was a Democrat.
But he said as a city councilmember, everything he got done was done under Republican mayors and that he always worked across the aisle.
Kee said, “Democrats have been in control of Greensboro forever, and what is the status of east Greensboro? They say, ‘We’ll support you with economic development,’ but they haven’t.”
Kee noted that with Republicans controlling the state and cutting taxes that North Carolina was rated by Forbes as the number one state in the country to do business, and as a businessman that was important to him.
Kee admitted that Lawson put pressure on him to go ahead and switch parties. Kee said, “Who switches parties in the middle of an election? I did.” Kee switched to the Republican Party in October 2017 during his run for City Council District 2 – a race that he lost to City Councilmember Goldie Wells.
One of the themes that was repeated throughout the discussion is that the key is education about what the two parties had done in the past and what they stood for today. The fact that Republicans stood for less government regulation and lower taxes was cited several times.
According to Hillary Clinton, the only reason women voted for Trump was because their husbands told them to. It makes it hard to explain a young single woman like Alissa Batts, who is running for the state House District 61 seat and is a Trump supporter. Batts said that in her opinion a lot of people voted for Democrats because they don’t know the facts.
Batts said, “The Republican Party is the party of solutions.”
Mendy Greenwood said that the Republican Party had the image of being against women, but she saw it the other way around. She said as the mother of four girls, school choice, which Republicans support, gave her the opportunity as a parent to make the decision about what school was best for her daughters. She said that they had sent their children to charter schools, public schools, private schools and home schooled them depending on what was best for their child.
One of the aspects of the 2016 presidential election that you don’t read much about is that Trump received a higher percentage of votes in predominately black precincts than Republican candidates received in the past two presidential elections. It was an increase of about 5 percent, but according to some analysts it most likely made the difference in Michigan.
The improved economy has resulted in a lower black unemployment rate than during the entire eight years that Obama was president and that is starting to get people’s attention, even though the mainstream media don’t like to report it.
Henderson said that his group’s goal was to get 10 percent of black voters to register Republican. People who don’t spend their time looking at precinct vote totals may not understand what that would mean for elections. In predominately black precincts, totals like 350 votes for the Democratic candidate to 10 for the Republican are not uncommon. So even changing that from 10 to 36 would make a huge difference, because Democrats have come to depend on the huge majorities won in predominately black precincts to enable them to win. If that became even 15 percent or 20 percent it would, for example, make it difficult for a Democrat to win a countywide race in Guilford County.
It may just be a trickle now, but if that trickle continues, it’s going to change the landscape of American elections.