Black Trump supporter by Johnny Silvercloud, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Imagine someone you don’t really know attempting to convince you to change your mind on an issue by telling you that you only believe what you believe because you’re brainwashed and mentally enslaved. Would this particular persuasion technique influence you to accept the other person’s argument? 

If you’re like most people, the answer is: “Hell no.” But if this is the case, why would conservatives use this same tactic on black Americans thinking it will convert them to conservatism?

This might be another unpopular opinion. But hear me out. Yes, you have likely heard many notable conservative figures repeat the claim that blacks vote for Democrats at a rate of 90% because they are brainwashed. It’s a constant refrain, especially from the black conservative establishment. 

Earlier this year, former presidential candidate Herman Cain told TMZ that blacks don’t like Trump because the media has brainwashed them. Candace Owens, the founder of the Blexit movement, has repeatedly claimed that blacks are mentally enslaved on a “Democratic Plantation,” and that black Americans have a “warped way of thinking.” Many other prominent conservatives — both black and white — have echoed this sentiment. 

To a certain extent, it’s understandable that many on the right would believe that blacks are brainwashed into voting Democrat given the fact that so many famous conservatives have been spreading this message. But the reality is that this talking point is not only erroneous, it also damages any chance the conservative movement has of reaching black voters. Why? Because it is both insulting and untrue. 

The truth is that most blacks know exactly why they reject the Republican Party. While many of their perceptions of the GOP are false, it is intellectually lazy to simply write it off as mental enslavement rather than genuine — and even valid — points of contention.

Earlier this year, I asked a number of black Democrats and independents on social media why the message of the black conservative establishment is not resonating with them. I receive a slew of pointed answers, but for right now, I will share this one:

“Ironically, they constantly, condescendingly tell Democrats that we need to get off the plantation as if we’re all ignorant and ill-informed and don’t know why we vote the way we do.”

I have seen an overwhelming number of black Americans echo this opinion on social media and elsewhere, and if you think about it critically, it makes sense. How can you persuade someone to receive your message if you’re essentially saying that they’re too dumb — or too brainwashed — to think for themselves?

As I’ve stated in other articles, one of the main reasons why blacks don’t support the Republican Party is that they will not engage with black voters in person. Meanwhile, the Democrats actually bother to show up. Are they pandering? Of course. Are they only pretending to care? For the most part, yes. But GOP essentially shows that they don’t care by staying away from the black community.

Instead, the extent of the party’s outreach to black voters is talking only about the negative aspects of black culture, repeating the same old talking points about welfare, crime, and single motherhood. It’s not that these issues aren’t important, but constantly talking about them without any genuine effort to make inroads in the community comes off as disingenuous politicking. Black conservative podcaster James Cheef puts it succinctly: “They want to talk ABOUT us, but they don’t want to talk TO us.” 

So if telling black people that they are brainwashed is the wrong approach, and it is, then what’s the alternative? Fortunately, it’s not hard. Why not speak to black people like they are fellow Americans, not brainwashed slaves? Why not try to genuinely understand where they are coming from instead of just pretending they are unable to think for themselves? In other words, why not just talk to black Americans the same way we talk to everyone else? 

Words are important. Messaging is important. It’s not enough to just have better policies. If we can’t sell our ideology effectively, then why even bother? Persuasion requires a relationship. The conservative movement can never have a relationship with the black community as long as its leaders are demeaning them. Yes, these individuals likely mean well. They believe their strategy will work. 

But the results of the 2018 midterm elections in which blacks voted Democrat at the same rate as they always have show something different. Moreover, the fact that this has been a right-wing talking point for the past twenty years also shows that it’s time for a new strategy. 

We can believe whatever polls we want about Trump’s approval ratings with black Americans, but we have to remember that this is bigger than Trump, who, by the way, has never said that blacks are brainwashed slaves on a plantation. The GOP needs to reform its message if it wants to bring more black Americans over to conservatism. Otherwise, we can expect to see more 90% support for the Democrats.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section!

If you want to continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter: @JeffOnTheRight