A black voter on Trump: What we have to lose

Issac Bailey | 8/25/2016, 9 a.m.
Donald Trump is making his pitch to African-American voters in these terms: "What the hell do you have to lose?"
Donald Trump at the Freedom Summit, a forum for GOP Presidential hopefuls in Greenville, South Carolina on May 9, 2015. (Photo: William Walker/CNN)

— Donald Trump is making his pitch to African-American voters in these terms: "What the hell do you have to lose?"

Here's my answer.

Rand Paul, who has spent years unflinchingly detailing the racial disparities found throughout the criminal justice system, how they've helped weaken the black family and why reform is urgent, could credibly make the case to people of color that Donald Trump has pretended to try to make this past week.

So could John Kasich, the governor of Ohio who bucked his party to embrace the Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, which, a New York Times analysis found, has been most beneficial to people of color, immigrants and the poor.

Marco Rubio could stand on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton and speak eloquently about the need to not overlook those on the margins, because he did so even during the heat of the 2016 Republican primary process. And he could show off the scars he received from a heated political battle over immigration reform (though he later repudiated his own bill).

How different would this race be if Hillary Clinton faced a Kasich-Rubio ticket instead of Trump-Pence?

Even Chris Christie showed he could connect to black voters when he embraced President Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and breezed to re-election as governor in New Jersey with a not insignificant percentage of the black vote.

The Republican Party is not void of other leaders who could credibly speak to the average voter of color -- Colin Powell, Mark Sanford, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez; George W. Bush garnered 40% of the Hispanic vote -- it's just that conservative voters chose the party's least credible candidate just four short years after rightly diagnosing its disconnect with voters of color.

Trump's ascension to the Republican presidential nomination disheartened people of color as much as it made white supremacists and white nationalists giddy. That should sadden us because there are millions of voters of color waiting to be courted seriously by the GOP.

Many voters of color are as socially conservative as white Republicans. They also share an over-riding belief in the power of entrepreneurship. They are frustrated by the state of public schools and would embrace school choice programs that are well designed and take into account the fate of students who would be left behind in the public system. Those groups are among the most religious in the nation while the GOP has long claimed faith as one of its pillars.

The ground has been fertile for quite some time for the Republican Party to break through with voters of color. I know -- because I've voted for Republicans, up and down the ticket. But the elevation of Trump has all but guaranteed I won't be voting for the party again any time soon.

The GOP had a choice during the Obama era. It could truly become the big-tent party. Or it could double down on its worst instincts. It chose the latter. The party began enacting voter ID laws that rolled back early voting options that people of color were most likely to use and made it harder to register new voters. It adopted the ugly "illegals" term to demean fellow human beings.