The GOP’s post-election listening tour comes to Atlanta today, with a twist.
Reince Preibus, the recently re-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, is scheduled to meet this afternoon with a couple of dozen black Republicans in an “engagement and listening session” aimed at widening the GOP’s appeal. It’s an imperative bit of outreach for Georgia Republicans — the like of which the state party, despite undeniable demographic trends away from its nearly all-white voting base, has done dangerously little.
No doubt, any number of ideas will be discussed during this session. But there’s one policy that is a color-blindingly obvious necessity for any serious attempt to win over minority voters: school choice.
Just a week ago, hundreds of students and their parents and teachers braved the cold for the annual school-choice rally on the Capitol steps. As is the case every year, the majority of these students were not white.
And almost all of them will be eligible to vote by 2018 or 2020.
If you don’t know, those are pretty much the years Georgia Democrats are eyeing as the time those demographic trends will make them competitive again in state politics.
So, let’s see … we have a group of people who traditionally don’t vote for Republicans, rallying in support of a policy that, in Georgia anyway, has been promoted chiefly by Republicans.
If Georgia’s Republicans can’t connect those dots, frankly they don’t deserve to stay in power much longer.
Not least since this annual picture of their potential future constituents comes on the heels of a resounding victory in November’s elections for the GOP-led charter schools amendment. That’s particularly true in areas of the state where Republican victories are rare.
In case you missed it back then, let me repeat some statistics about how the charter schools amendment fared:
Of all Georgia’s counties, the amendment did best in Clayton (71 percent), where Mitt Romney won just 15 percent of the presidential vote.
The amendment won 66 percent of the vote in Fulton and 64 percent in DeKalb. And here’s guessing parents who vote in DeKalb have even more interest in school choice today, given the shenanigans going on with the leadership — if that’s the right word for it — of that county’s school system.
Together, those three counties accounted for about one-third of all black registered voters in Georgia. Their approval of the amendment outpaced even the healthy support for it in counties where majorities sided with Romney (56 percent).
Yet, during the present legislative session, there appears to be little chance of seeing more significant school-choice legislation passed.
Why? Because some legislators are afraid it’s bad politics.
Bad politics? A policy that wins by double-digits in GOP-majority counties, and by even more than that in the largest majority-Democrat counties, is considered bad politics?
Yes, it goes over poorly with the entrenched educational bureaucracy. But so did the charter-schools amendment. And anyway, since when does the Republican Party side with the bureaucracy over taxpayers and parents?
If Republicans are to make inroads with minorities and other groups that typically don’t vote for them, they’re going to have to demonstrate, among other things, that they will put a priority on those voters’ interests. In some cases, that means siding with those voters’ interests over the financial interests of those who are trying to maintain the status quo.
That means putting the interests of students and parents — of any race — above those of the education bureaucracy. That means understanding that public education means ensuring all of our children are well-educated, and not necessarily that all of them must be educated by a publicly run monopoly. That means arguing as passionately for giving individuals choices in education as in health care.
If they can’t do those things, they might as well give up on the listening tours.
– By Kyle Wingfield