By Benjamin Smith
For too long, the assumption has been that African American voters will vote only for Democrats because social programs are the sole issue that concerns them. This is not true. There is opportunity to spread the Libertarian message with minority, lower-middle income, and poor communities across the United States.
Republicans have used intimidation and vote nullification tactics to remove African Americans from the electorate. The result is an under-served and under-represented segment of the population open to new messages.
The failed War on Drugs has turned predominantly poorer black neighborhoods into battlegrounds, as escalated law enforcement presence coupled with gang activities and street crime brings the battle for control into the front yards of law-abiding citizens who are already struggling for simple survival.
Younger voters, by and large, are not voting. A Pew Research poll found that 6 in 10 persons did not vote and fully 35 percent of those potential voters were under the age of 30, largely minorities from poorer areas of the country. These numbers represent a segment of the population that could significantly change the outcome of any election from the national level to the local. The study also found that a large majority had family incomes of less than $30,000 per year and are frequently underemployed.
The Libertarian message to these voters has not been received because many times the areas in question are being largely ignored. The question then becomes: how do Libertarian candidates reach minority voters?
The poor, working poor, and lower-middle income economic brackets experience the overreach and intrusiveness of government and law enforcement in their everyday lives. The Pew research study found that one in five African American males under 30 are either incarcerated, have been arrested, or are convicted felons, more than 80 percent of whom were charged with a drug-related crime.
Jobs and economic opportunity are touchstone issues for the African American community.
Interestingly, a large percentage of the persons who are receiving some type of government assistance, mainly food stamps, are registered to vote because most states offer voter registration to those applying for government benefits. Still, they are not voting.
Offering real solutions to this community is the only way to inspire them to go to the polls for Libertarian candidates. A message of a less-intrusive government and an end to the drug war, along with the LP’s deep and abiding faith in free-market economics, would be well accepted.
Candidates for local office, such as city or county councils, should highlight plans to curtail police activity in neighborhoods. For state and national candidates, the theme of ending the drug war along with economic opportunity should be central to minority outreach.
Personal interaction with voters is key in any minority strategy. Candidates must make their presence known in the communities where votes are being sought. House-to-house walks along with community and civic meetings are integral. Voters who have never exercised their right to vote have to be inspired to do so. This will come only through personal interaction.
Benjamin Smith is a political strategist and author based in Savannah, Ga. He’s been working and consulting for campaigns for 27 years, formerly Republican, now Libertarian.