By Mike Green
It was a classic showdown between one man and an arch conservative wing of the Republican Party over a signature piece of healthcare legislation that has strong implications for the legacy of this administration. The stakes were high.
Memories of election defeats in 2008 and 2012 were still fresh in the minds of those whose intent was to undermine any progress of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare” by political conservatives. Defunding the healthcare law, by attaching an amendment to a federal budget bill, was the last opportunity to derail the Obamacare train before it left the station and rolled out to the American people.
The tactic didn’t work. The Obamacare train rolled (or rather clanged, clattered and sputtered out of the station as Americans overwhelmed websites set up for registration and caused them to crash).
Nevertheless, at the end of a 16-round battle between the Republican Party and the White House over the hearts and minds of the America public (resulting in a shutdown of the federal government) President Barack Obama emerged victorious, yet again.
Today, the U.S. government is back in business, thanks to a last-second agreement in the waning hours to beat a deadline and raise the debt ceiling. The Senate voted overwhelmingly for a budget bill that did not include the Republican’s previous push to defund “Obamacare,” which many polls agree Americans believed was the catalyst for shutting down the federal government for 16 days and the fulcrum upon which re-opening the government was balanced.
Senate: 81-18 in favor of raising the debt ceiling and re-opening the government (with no significant impact upon Obamacare). House vote: 285-144. President Obama signed the bill into law at 11:30 pm (cst) on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, which immediately opened the doors on Thursday as a normal workday for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who were given an unscheduled 16-day vacation.
In the aftermath of yet another high profile political defeat after going toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with a president whose record at defeating Republicans will stand the test of time as the worst beating the party has repeatedly received in its modern history, I am left with one profound question:
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GOP?
Not the Grand Old Party. What happened to the Growth and Opportunity Project?
In the immediate aftermath of a brutal presidential election in 2012 that left the Republican Party publicly shell-shocked over the landslide defeat, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus went to work on a new “national marketing and branding campaign” that he hoped would help the party reach, engage and persuade the landscape of Americans who overwhelmingly voted against the Republican’s presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That landscape is comprised of multicultural American citizens, which include non-Whites (a.k.a. “minorities”).
The most vocal groups among the minorities are Blacks and Latinos. And the Republican Party’s reputation among Black Americans is at an all-time low. With 93 percent voting to re-elect President Obama, the Republicans believe their best chance is a strategic outreach plan in which they will pay volunteers to be part of the Black community on an ongoing basis.
Priebus announced the $10 million Growth and Opportunity Project in March of this year. By October, the Republicans were embroiled in a nasty battle with the president that polarized Americans, including their own party. I suspect the GOP (meaning Growth and Opportunity Project) is DOA (meaning Dead On Arrival).
Actually, it was a DPW anyway (Dead Plan Walking).
REPUBLICANS MUST LEARN AMERICAN HISTORY
The challenge for Republicans isn’t to figure out how best to tell their message or determine how best to appeal to the minority populations who they disparage and keep at arm’s length. The assumption is, at least in the case for Black Americans, that we don’t know the history of the Grand Old Party. The challenge for the Grand Old Party is to learn its own history. Then work to change it.
Key point: Work. Not talk.
Results matter. The results of the past have created the present-day paradigm. The results of the future (let’s say … 2016 and beyond), will be determined by the investments and hard work made today.
The generational problems lingering from slavery and Jim Crow did not magically disappear in 1964 and ‘65 the moment a couple of pieces of legislation were passed into law as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. (Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965).
At the time, Black unemployment was twice the rate of Whites. Today, it still is. Nothing has changed year over year for five decades.
In 1973, a mere five years following the brutal assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Quayle Poll showed an overwhelming majority of both White conservatives and liberals in Illinois believed the federal government had “done enough” or “more than enough” to help Blacks. That same sentiment was the result of another poll of the Tea Party and conservative wing of the Republican Party conducted in 2010. Nothing has changed.
At the time of the Civil Rights Movement, Black businesses produced less than 1% of the nation’s GDP and employed 0% of the nation’s population. Today, Black entrepreneurship has grown at an unprecedented rate of 60%, triple the national average (18%), yet the total of Black-owned business production remains less than 1% with 0% employment. Nothing has changed.
Black Americans’ net worth today is so low that the net worth of White families is 22 times greater than Black families. That actually has changed from the era of Dr. King … when it was a mere four times greater.
So, here’s the challenge for Republicans. Learn your party’s history.
You’re the party that espouses strong faith in economic competitiveness, private sector investments, job growth, low taxes and small government.
COMMON CORE ECONOMICS HISTORY QUIZ
So, here’s a pop quiz:
Over the past five decades, what is the private sector’s record on diversity and inclusion?
Over the past five decades, what measurable results can the private sector show in investments and outcomes that produced exponential ROI in Black America?
Over the past five decades (or even the last decade), what measurable results can the private sector show from investments in tech-based entrepreneurship, infrastructure, resources and job growth in Black America?
Over the past five decades, what is the track record of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) plans in 540 regional development organization Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) districts in producing economic progress in underserved communities?
Over the past five decades, the private sector (which controls the investment landscape) has bemoaned the notion of Black Americans depending upon the government. What demonstrable evidence does the private sector have that shows growth in contracts with Black-owned businesses, hiring of Black employees, sustainable closure of the gap in Black unemployment and White unemployment rates, and investments in developing growth-stage companies (and job growth) in Black America?
Over the past five decades, what evidence does the private sector have to refute the notion that it is primarily responsible for the outcry from the Civil Rights Movement and all of the outcries ever since? (i.e. redlining, racial profiling, racial discrimination, disparate pay, disparate education, etc).
Does the Republican Party know the level of economic apartheid that exists uniformly across the nation? (i.e. Black-owned businesses produce 1%to 2% of gross regional product in any Metropolitan Statistical Area in America, even where Black populations soar to more than 80% of the population of cities).
Does the Republican Party know that Black-owned businesses and Hispanic-owned businesses combined across America (1.9 million and 2.3 million respectively) produce a total of LESS than 2.5% of GDP?
21st CENTURY MULTICULTURAL AMERICA
At the rate of growth among the minority communities, the Census projects America will be a non-White majority nation by mid-century. Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs are growing at a rate of 60% and 44% respectively, which is a clear indicator of significant efforts being made to pursue the American Dream of entrepreneurship, net worth and generational wealth. This effort would result in job growth in minority communities except for the fact that 95% of the entrepreneurial efforts are under-funded sole proprietorships with zero employees. Where is the private sector in addressing this issue?
At the end of the day, the Republican Party must do some serious soul-searching. Its talk does not match its walk. And fewer folks are listening to the talk.
REPUBLICAN PARTY HISTORY
If the Republican Party seeks to return to its roots, when it fought to pass the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, when it impeached a president as a result of congressional battles with the White House over helping newly freed Black slaves, when it fought for (not against) funding the Freedman’s Bureau, when it was the best friend that Black Americans had in congress … then the Republican Party will need to look in the mirror today and recognize its own ignorance. It doesn’t know its own history.
The Republican Party that emerged in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement is not the Republican Party that impeached President Andrew Johnson.
The Republicans of today, who laud the private sector and ironically redistribute the incomes of Black Americans and other minorities to invest in a landscape of White startup companies, are not the Republicans who supported CORE during the Civil Rights Movement (Congress Of Racial Equality).
TIPS FOR GOP
If the GOP is to remain viable, productive and relevant in a multicultural America, which has long been a multicultural landscape, it must stop ignoring the fact that this is a multicultural nation.
If the GOP is to be competitive in future elections, it must devote time, energy and investments in generating results that uplift the economic state of minorities who can contribute to the overall economic competitiveness of the nation.
If the GOP is to appeal to the hearts and minds of non-White Americans, it must jettison its GOP (Growth and Opportunity Project) and develop a new strategy that includes establishment of a diverse group of thought leaders who don’t necessarily agree with every idea the Republican Party presents. In other words, diversity of thought is a better strategic step in the planning process. Dare to Disagree (must watch video TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan).
If the GOP is to make exponential progress with the American people, it must recognize that the multicultural landscape of America is filled with extremely talented and skilled people who are strong assets contributing to the economic competitiveness of the nation. They need investment in their future.
If the Republican Party wants to win more elections, it will need to demonstrate a new purpose that hinges upon its willingness to invest in developing infrastructure that produces a pipeline of innovative talent for an increasingly tech-based workforce and tech-driven entrepreneurial landscape. I recommend investing in funding the Office for Inclusive Competitiveness (OIC), led by the Father of Inclusive Competitiveness, Johnathan Holifield, Esq.
Holifield is the Vice President of Inclusive Competitiveness at NorTech, a tech-based economic development powerhouse covering 21 counties in Northeast Ohio. Go talk to him. Invite him to speak to your groups across the nation. As an evangelist of Inclusive Competitiveness, Holifield will reveal truth you won’t hear in the pulpit.
Finally, stop battling President Obama. If the GOP removes the blind fury it harbors, which manifests in gaffe after gaffe and battle after battle and loss after loss, it may see clearly that President Obama is offering not only an olive branch, but a virtual blueprint for getting the Republican Party back on track.
Remember the JOBS Act signed into law in April 2012? That landmark legislation opened unprecedented doors of opportunity for minority entrepreneurs (via crowdfunding). Given the GOP’s penchant for private equity sector investments in startups and growth-stage enterprises, it would seem logical to applaud Obama’s move and leverage it to establish resources for the fast-growing minority entrepreneur landscape. The result would be funding of more startups, development of startup communities, establishment of pipelines of minority innovators and a track record that can be touted during elections.
And here’s the competitive advantage: If there’s one consistent complaint Black Americans lodge against the Democratic Party is that they feel exploited. And given the failure of both parties to actually DO anything that remotely resembles establishing an economic competitiveness agenda for Black America, it seems to me there’s a first-mover opportunity for both parties. And private sector economics is obviously a branding opportunity that is in the GOP’s bailiwick.
Now that the government is open again, perhaps the Republican Party will re-open its memory of a time when it sought ways to invest in the empowerment of Black Americans. Here are three good first steps:
- Support the UNCF HBCU Innovation Summit at Stanford University (Oct. 29 – Nov. 1)
- Establish the Office for Inclusive Competitiveness (see Johnathan Holifield or ask me)
- Support the ScaleUp Local Innovation Campaign (ask me about it)
DNC AND RNC: RESULTS MATTER
And, for the Democratic Party leaders reading this, the opportunity to address the issues mentioned above is open to any and all political parties. It stands to reason that the party currently benefiting from the support of most of the minorities in America would make the first move toward investing in the economic development of minority communities. I’ve yet to hear a cogent plan articulated.
I’ve offered a way forward above. I’m politically agnostic about who makes it happen. My hope is all political parties commit to investing immediately in the economic empowerment of all Americans.
The bottom line is action speaks louder than words.
Let’s see who responds.
Mike Green, a New York Times Leadership Academy Fellow and an award-winning print and digital-media journalist, is the founder of the Saving America’s Black Boys National Campaign and co-founder of the America21 Project.