The African American community votes overwhelmingly Democratic. President Barack Obama was elected with more than 90 percent of the Black vote, and Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore also got the lion’s share of Black votes. But, not all Black people are Democrats. A significant number of African Americans are conservative Republicans, and they are becoming more prominent.
FOX News Channel recently hired Stacey Dash to be a political commentator. Businessman Herman Cain was a presidential candidate in 2012 and Dr. Ben Carson may be a Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
So how do Black conservatives feel in the age of Obama? Micah Grant, press secretary for the Board of Equalization said he was excited when Obama was elected president in 2008.
“I thought it represented a change in American society,” Grant said. “It was a very historic election.”
Grant said Obama has had some successes and failures.
“I think he will have a mixed legacy,” Grant said. He said he wished Obama would have consulted the Republican leadership when he was crafting his healthcare legislation.
“A lot of voters are concerned about the rising costs of their premiums,” Grant said.
Grant acknowledges the president has a tough job and pushes back against those people who say Obama is not doing enough for the African American community.
“He’s not president of Black America,” he said. “He’s president of the United States.”
Grant, who grew up in South Los Angeles, said he has been a Republican since high school, when he realized his political views were more aligned with the GOP. He said he is “pro jobs, pro-free market and pro business.” Grant feels African Americans hold many Republican ideals.
“African American culture is a ‘hustle’ culture,” he said. “We are very entrepreneurial.”
Grant, who is of Jamaican descent, said the Black community is not monolithic. The community also has many immigrant groups, people from Africa and the Caribbean, who have conservative values. However, not everyone in the African American community is welcoming of Black Republicans.
“I have received my fair share of criticism,” Grant said. “A lot of people don’t understand how I am a Republican.”
Grant thinks the GOP needs to do a better job of engaging with the Black community. He believes one of the people doing that is State Sen. Bob Huff who has been meeting with Black newspapers across the state.
“Republicans need to show up,” Grant said. “The symbolism is powerful.”
Another Republican who is taking an active role in engaging with the Black community is Sen. Rand Paul, who announced his 2016 presidential campaign this week. Paul has spoken at several Black colleges and talked about police-community relations and sentencing—issues that many African Americans are concerned about, Grant said.
Joe Hicks, vice president of Community Advocates, Inc. a Los Angeles-based political and social policy think tank, agrees with Grant. He stated the GOP is not doing enough to promote local Black politicians. Hicks said the Republican Party is willing to support Black presidential, senatorial and congressional candidates, but largely ignores Black Republicans running for mayoral positions, city council and boards of education.
Hicks, who describes himself as a “political conservative,” has taken a roundabout journey to his current political affiliation. He got his start in the late 1960s with Black nationalist groups and even flirted with communism for a while. Hicks was a liberal Democrat, but grew disenchanted with that worldview. He disagreed with liberal views on race issues and affirmative action and gradually moved towards the Republican Party.
Hicks first registered as a Republican in 2000 and voted for George W. Bush. His journey has not always been smooth, and Hicks has also lost some friends over his political views. Hicks has been called the usual names given to Black conservatives such as “sell out” and “Uncle Tom.”
However, Hicks says he is not the “staunchest” Republican. He believes the government should generally stay out of people’s private lives and people should be able to marry who they want.
“As a conservative, I don’t want the government in my life and telling me what to do,” Hicks said.
Although Hicks voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008, he was initially hopeful about Obama’s election.
“It was a powerful statement,” Hicks said. “In my lifetime, we have seen the election of a Black man.”
But Hicks said he has been disappointed by Obama, even though he hoped he would do well. He called Obama “one of America’s worst presidents” and compares him to Jimmy Carter. Hicks also gave Obama an “F” on foreign policy and says he has failed to deal with the issue of race.
“A lot of Americans who voted for him are disappointed,” Hicks said.
Obama has received his share of “over-the-top” criticism, with people claiming he was born in Kenya, is a Muslim, unpatriotic and a communist. Hicks said there is always going to be a small minority of “stupid people” who believe the worst about the American president. He compared “birthers” to “truthers,” who believe George W. Bush was involved with the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Hicks was also dismissive of Cain and Carson. Cain’s political gaffes showed he was inexperienced in the world of politics, said Hicks, who has actually met and interviewed him.
“He’s a political joke,” Hicks said.
He has also been disappointed by Carson, who has been dogged by anti-gay comments. Carson’s gaffes simply prove he is ill-prepared for a national position, Hicks said.
Hicks has not decided which Republican candidate to back in 2016, but he is not a fan of Jeb Bush, who he feels is weak on immigration.
“I’d like to see a president who deals with our border policies,” Hicks said. “I don’t think most Americans want these kind of families (the Bushs and the Clintons) occupying the White House in succession.”