Victory is still in the air after the Republican tidal wave of successes last Tuesday. There is no second-guessing that Republicans made historic gains, bolstering their majority in the House and taking back the Senate, signifying a new Republican era. From race to gender to region to age, we showcased our diversity in our candidates. I know it is long overdue. But it happened, nonetheless!
More importantly, voters showed both political parties who's really in charge, the American people.
Americans elected the first female Senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst. We elected the first African-American Republican Congresswoman, Mia Love. We elected the youngest Congresswoman, Elise Stefanik in New York. We elected the first African-American Republican Congressman since reconstruction, Will Hurd. We elected the first African-American Republican Senator, and first African-American to serve in the House and Senate, Senator Tim Scott. We elected the first woman to the Senate from West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito.
Americans sent powerful messages to our current and future political leaders on Tuesday.
First, Americans sent the message that they want the best representations for their communities, even if that means supporting candidates and policies outside of our own party. For instance, here in Florida, 12% of the 14% of Black voters cast their ballots for Governor Rick Scott. In 2010, Governor Scott only received 6% of the Black vote. What caused the doubling in votes? I would argue Governor Scott’s stance on school choice. During his first year in office, Governor Scott expanded Florida’s tax credit scholarship and signed legislation that created merit pay for teachers. I guess Charlie Crist’s claim of being the “People’s Governor” did not translate into protecting low-income and special needs students against teacher’s union.
Here’s another powerful message from this election: Two-thirds of Americans did not vote on Tuesday. There has been a wide array of commentary on what this means. It means that Americans want to hear about solutions that will allow them to keep more of their paycheck, have high-wage jobs to support their families and keep their homes, less government interference for small businesses working towards their American dream, and college graduates knowing that once they find a job they can afford to pay back their college loans. Voters rejected Democratic leaders, and the gridlock in Washington.
And, it is safe to say that First Lady Michelle Obama’s comments, “Don’t worry about what candidates have done or said- just vote for Democrats,” and “I give everyone full permission to eat fried chicken after they vote,” did not resonate as expected. Voters, especially Black voters are noticing the conditions of their neighborhoods in a brilliant call-to-action by Elbert Guillory, doing their research, and understanding their votes have value and should be earned every election.
According to Forbes, 50% of Americans “lack confidence that their children will do better than they have, 10 points higher than in 2010.” This sentiment is important for politicians to hone in on. Voters are not only thinking about their current situations, they are also thinking about the future of this country and the diminished American dream we are leaving to our children in the form of crushing government deficits, structural challenges and debilitating gridlock.
We are left with the question, “What are Republicans going to do now?”
My hope is that with increased GOP leadership in Congress and in Governor’s mansions across the country, we will continue to implement policies that acknowledge and decrease the disparity gaps among minorities and the rest of America. Republicans have to ensure their legislation matches our principles and values. We have an opportunity to begin chipping away at the failed policies of the past few years and create systems that reward hard-work, innovation, and provide opportunity to everyday Americans. Republicans have to lead and pass bills that allow Americans to feel secure in their future and their children’s future. This is the warm-up for 2016, and the ball is Congress’ court.
As Republican members of Congress draft legislation to create jobs, bridge the wealth gap, make college more affordable, increase school choice, and lower taxes, let’s not automatically assume that the cuts will hurt Black America. Despite an unemployment rate that is down to 10% for African-Americans, there remain thousands of blacks out of work, and many more who have stopped looking. The amount of wealth that has been lost in the Black community is simply astounding, and we have yet to see remedies and solutions from the Democrats.
Powerful messages were sent last week, and, at the very least, I hope this past election will allow Black Republicans like myself more opportunities to share why we are Republicans and what being a Republican means to us. Black Republicans understand that over the years there has been a lot of scar tissue built upon between our community and the Republican Party. On Tuesday night, the Republican Party had a chance to heal and seal some of those wounds of the past. Let's move forward, together.
Chelsi Henry, Esq., is a Florida-based attorney and consultant. You can contact her at www.chelsiphenry.com or tweet her at: @chelsiphenry.