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A Black Republican’s Georgia Autopsy

By Autry J. Pruitt


Image provide by: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool
Almost two years ago, Rush Limbaugh call screener James Golden (also known as “Bo Snerdley”) and I met with a major Republican donor who claimed to be interested in supporting our organization, New Journey PAC. He expressed interest in one of our warnings — that Georgia would turn blue in 2020. More importantly, the donor wanted to know how to prevent this catastrophe.

James and I made the case that keeping Georgia red came down to courting Black voters well ahead of the election, with a significant concentration in the DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties. We also had an ambitious five-year plan, which he did not disagree with. But, unexpectedly, he couldn’t have cared less about pitching in. In his words: “Gentlemen, your cause is great, but you need to find someone who cares about this Black s**t.”

Well, do we care about “this Black s**t” now?

Fast-forward to 2021, and that sort of attitude — all too prevalent among establishment types — has cost the Republican Party its beloved Senate majority. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock edged out Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, granting Democrats full control of Washington, D.C.

The Democratic Party’s success came down to one block of voters: African Americans. The Georgia election was not about President Trump. Nor was it about unprecedented campaign fundraising. The election was a referendum on the Republican Party as it now exists in a post-Trump era. This was a disaster of epic proportions.

The prevailing notion among Black Americans (and most minority groups) is that Republicans don’t care about them. Think about it: No majority of any minority population votes Republican. Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Native Americans, and Indians all support Democrats by large margins.

While conservative pundits mocked Stacey Abrams, she developed a master plan and raised the money to execute it. Long before Republicans cared about the January runoffs, Abrams realized that Democrats could flip Georgia by maximizing Black turnout. Her quest was 10 years in the making. She figured out that Democrats could win the demographic battle. Republican leadership did not, until it was too late. Truthfully, I am still not sure that Republicans get it.

Nearly one-third of all Georgia residents are Black, and they turned out in droves for Ossoff and Warnock. Faced with Republican apathy toward them, why wouldn’t they turn out for an African American pastor like Warnock? In the Black community, you don’t become a respected reverend overnight. It requires years of training and proper vetting, not unlike a political candidate. In a “woke” America, Republicans underestimated the power of the Black church. By resorting to personal attacks on the shepherd of the flock, instead of criticizing Warnock’s core values, Republicans only reinforced the African American community’s support for him.

Many Black voters in cities like Atlanta have never knowingly interacted with a Republican, so it wasn’t difficult to vote against one. That’s what Republicans cannot fully grasp. Black voters don’t trust them because they don’t know them personally, and that’s precisely the problem. Yes, conservative organizers mobilized on the ground, but it was not enough and way too late. Conservatives did not make inroads in Black communities because they didn’t even go to those communities.

Early in the Trump administration, I had multiple meetings with Republican leaders. I urged them to go into Black communities two years early. All I received was a courtesy nod at these perfunctory meetings, presumably so Republican leadership could claim to have engaged with “Black voices.”

Looking ahead, we better pray that the Abrams playbook isn’t replicated elsewhere. In Mississippi, 37.8% of residents are Black — a higher percentage than in Georgia. What’s to stop Abrams from making her way over there and flipping that state blue?

That also opens up Louisiana, with a Democratic governor and a 33% Black population, along with Alabama and the Carolinas. The current Republican strategy is simply not sustainable. The sooner we realize it, the sooner we can start winning again.

So what can be done? Republicans need to empower the minorities in their ranks, including Black voices. Future candidates must be representative of today’s America.

But, even beyond future candidates, the conservative movement needs to realize that there are plenty of minority voices out there, and they must be featured at all levels. They need to be mainstreamed so people realize that Republicans don’t have to be white. Do the faces across conservative media look like us? Did they grow up where we did? Do they attend our churches? Do they go to our schools?

Stop playing the victim card. Stop bringing up a “rigged election.” We lost in Georgia, and that will remain a trend unless we face the facts.

Let’s start by caring about “this Black s**t” — before it’s too late.