NewsOne: It has been proven that in times of economic hardship, businesses hold on to money, not reinvest in the economy as conservatives would have voters believe, which makes sense from a smart capitalist point of view. Still, trickle down economics has proven to be only marginally successful in times of prosperity — and even then, the rich get richer and the poor get by. How will these voter concerns be addressed within the “new” Republican Party?
LACKEY: I’m not sure I would categorize it as a ‘new’ Republican party. Our party supports small business. Small businesses support workers. Workers support communities. Focusing on the “rich” is the wrong way to go, when hundreds of middle class business owners employ thousands, even millions of people in our country. Creating an economic climate that supports innovation is the Republican Party focus. Innovative people are our backbone, and they exist in all walks of life. We all know people with big ideas and strong plans to bring the ideas to fruition. Our Party is committed to helping people with big ideas bring them to bear. Top down economics is not the name of the game. We’re talking innovation and supporting the businesses that innovate and employ.
NewsOne: When it comes to the issue of abortion, conservatives have sought to insert religious beliefs into policies that would take away women’s autonomy over their reproductive decisions, including but not limited to repealing Roe vs. Wade. At some point, we’ve seen some Republicans even justify rape as a means of contraception. Republicans overwhelming lost women voters in the past election cycle. Moving forward, what do you foresee the party’s stance being on reproductive health?
LACKEY: The Republican Party stance on reproductive health is always that women and children deserve to live healthy successful lives. Our views are not outdated Bible-thumped beliefs, nor the old-time “because God said no” type of rhetoric. It’s simply that as a society we have to foster a spirit of life and responsibility. I am not certain any human should be given the autonomy to decide whether or not an unborn child will live or die, unless there is some substantial medical reason. There are a few loud individuals in our party who have been very expressive about their views on rape, etc. Going forward, I am confident the GOP will do a much better job developing candidates who better articulate their views on reproductive health. This past election cycle was definitely a case of two or three bad apples spoiling a bunch.
NewsOne: It seems as if the conservative version of small government is big on corporate welfare and military spending, small on programs that benefit low-income citizens, ranging from food stamps to healthcare. In short, the very real historic disparities that tilt the playing field are not reflected in conservative policy. How will the party address poverty moving forward without the condescension of “47 percent” rhetoric?
LACKEY: In 1996, the GOP lead policy reforms that dramatically changed our nation’s approach to poverty, and made welfare a hand-up program. I believe that assistance is vital to support the intense work and effort individuals put into working their way up to the American Dream. We will continue to make work and effort the focus of poverty programs. There are aggressive ground-level strategies being put into place that will create programs that directly serve communities all over the country as they we lift each other out of poverty. Furthermore, the Republican Party is laser-focused on supporting faith-based programs that support neighbors helping neighbors in places least touched by big government programs.
NewsOne: If you were leading the Republican Party, what would be your game plan moving forward to encourage and embrace voters of color, particularly in the Black community?
LACKEY: Give a damn. There are lots of people out there from all groups (gay, Black, straight, poor, etc) who just want to know that the Republicans care even a little. Currently it seems we hate anyone who watches Modern Family and doesn’t think Jesus is Lord.
Change the tone: There are much better ways to present what we believe to the public. I’m convinced Blacks and others are literally scared away from the party because of how we say what we believe. The way we present views on immigration, poverty initiatives, crime, etc may just work IF people don’t tune us out because of how we say it.
Get with the program. Black voters are millions strong and growing: It’s time to understand and admit the cultural shift. The Republican party doesn’t look like America. I sat in the GOP convention amazed at what we looked like.
Support African-American connect points for real: The new leaders of the GOP are not on radio or television, nor are they the handful of blacks the GOP keeps throwing at the people (nobody is fooled by [Herman] Cain, et al). My luncheon proved there are significant opportunities to identify Blacks in business, politics and religion (or whatever) who lean conservative but who have no opportunity to be heard because the party seems to think they don’t need to listen. No more perfunctory outreach. Open an office of diversity in the DC headquarters. Connect in earnest.
Condemn our idiots. People like [Todd] Akin and [Richard] Mourdock need to be immediately condemned when they say things that do not reflect good judgment or true human values. Not all of our personal opinions are fit to be made into law or platform items. We’ve got to stick to what we believe and speak out when our own leadership works against us.
NewsOne: With many African-Americans being emotionally invested in the weighted symbolism of the Obama presidency, have you encountered increased backlash for being a Black Republican; and, if so, how do you deal with it?
LACKEY: Of course I have received awful backlash, but I’m not singled out. Any African-American who either disagrees with the president or challenges his policies or actions is sharply criticized by our community. If you take a look at recent attacks on Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, both usually beloved by Black people, it’s easy to see the tolerance for anything less than cheering the president on is quite low. I am very proud to see the president and his family in the White House, but that does not mean I overlook the needs of my neighbors and offer blind support to him.
And I deal with such backlash by asking a simple question: is your community better because of the presidency of Barack Obama? I rarely get a direct answer. As a Black Republican I only want my community to thrive and progress. I fully agree with what Dr. West recently said concerning President Obama, “We’re proud of him, but we’re putting pressure on him.” I think we all should share that sentiment.
While the stains of religious intolerance, sexism, classism, racism and apathy will continue to plague the Republican Party as long as there are those among them who foster and perpetuate those ideals which, on the surface, seem to only benefit wealthy, white, heterosexual men, there is a new breed of African-American voter, and the Democratic Party will not be able to depend on them simply because they are the lesser of two evils. With the Independent, Green and even Libertarian Parties becoming more and more appealing to disenchanted voters, time will tell if the vanguard of the Republican Party will be able to shift it from the shadows of possibility to the forefront of African-American politics.
Stephen N. Lackey is a public affairs adviser, philanthropist, and political fundraiser who uses his influence to create public-private partnerships that bring strong community programs into urban communities. To learn more about his initiatives, visit: The Stephen N. Lackey Trust.