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5 Black Americans Who Show Why Democrats Shouldn't Take The Minority Vote For Granted

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Julia Craven
BLACK REPUBLICANS CPAC 2016 © Julia Craven / The Huffington Post BLACK REPUBLICANS CPAC 2016

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Black people vote Democrat. There are, seemingly, no ifs, ands or buts about it. 

No Republican presidential candidate has received more than  40 percent of the black vote since 1936 . In 2012, 95 percent of black voters cast ballots for President Barack Obama. Two years later, in the midterm elections, only 11 percent of black voters identified as Republican -- the lowest percentage of any minority group, according to Pew Research Center .

The reasons for black people's deep allegiance to the Democratic party aren't complicated. Before 1948, African-Americans voted for Democrats about as often as they cast ballots for Republicans. But when Harry Truman called for new civil rights legislation -- including an anti-lynching law -- in 1948, black folks' identification with the Democratic Party started to take off. In 1964, that percentage of black Democrats skyrocketed thanks to the party's comparative support of the civil rights movement.

Yet despite the widespread assumption that black equals Democrat, The Huffington Post encountered quite a few black Republicans at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday and Friday who disagreed.

We asked some of the African-American participants -- still vastly outnumbered by whites at the annual conservative meeting -- to tell us  what drew them to the GOP.  Here’s what they said.

Kira and Niger Innis

Kira Innis, 29, began comparing and contrasting the Republican and Democratic parties as a preteen during the 2000 election.  

“For some reason, I was just drawn to it,” she said. “This is something that’s going to affect me as I grow up [and] my children -- when I have them -- as they grow up.”

She decided to become a Republican after determining that conservative ideals tied into her deep religious faith.

“It made sense to me specifically as a believer. Life is very important. Marriage is very important,” Innis said. “Understanding that those two things are really the crux of our faith and knowing how it’s being so attacked in our liberal media, I just -- I had to take a stand, you know?”

Innis is also not a fan of the Democratic Party’s minority outreach efforts.

“When I look at it from a racial perspective, I can’t help but feel that the left not only takes the brown vote for granted,” she said.  “When we ‘leave the political plantation,’ as it were, and deviate to the other side, they send the attack dogs after you.” 

“And basically their mindset is, I feel, that you’re black or you’re brown or you’re a woman or you’re whatever minority, you have to think one way. One thing I love about this country is that you can be whatever you want … and engage in a free exchange of ideas without being vilified or targeted or marginalized," Innis added.

Her uncle, Niger Innis, is chairman of Tea Party Forward, a group affiliated with the tea party movement, and a member of the civil rights organization Congress of Racial Equality. He cited the Republican Party's past connection with the struggle for black freedom as a reason he was drawn to the GOP.

“I know my history,” the 47-year-old said, noting that President Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, as well as many of the first black politicians.  

“The Republican Party, which was founded to fight for the liberty of black people, is the Republican Party fighting for the liberty of all people from big government, from an over-intrusive government, and from the United States slipping into becoming yet another Western European socialist state,” he said.  

Lonnie Poindexter

At one point, business was booming for Lonnie Poindexter.

“I was an entrepreneur. I was in business with my best friend in Southern California. We started a systems integration firm and we grew that firm to 20-plus employees, doing about $1 million a year in sales,” said the 59-year-old.

But, due to a few blunders, the duo got behind on their payroll taxes.

“When the government got through with us, I learned very, very quickly who the real bad guy is,” he said.

That's where Poindexter's journey into the Republican Party began. He started reading and studying the history of the parties. He had always been raised with conservative values, though his parents didn’t refer to themselves as conservatives.

Today, Poindexter hosts the "Lion Chaser Radio Show" on Urban Family Talk, a religious media network that targets an African-American audience. He believes that God is the final arbiter in the affairs of man, and isn’t fond of the government stepping in to help. In fact, he blames entitlement programs for single-parent households.

“My mantra is to stop that and return us back to what made us great, in spite of the obstacles we had in our way because we were black,” Poindexter said of government assistance programs. “I don’t see racism as an insurmountable obstacle, it’s just an obstacle to be overcome to take us to our next level.”

Poindexter cited his time in Silicon Valley for his reasoning.

“I was always the only one who looked like me, or one of a handful -- typically the first one … Did that stop me from attaining my goals? No. Did it delay me? Possibly, but I still attained by goals,” he said.

“Our greatness is determined by what we overcome as a people," he added. "And what I want the African-American community to recognize is the importance of understanding our history and where we come from. We are overcomers as a people, and not victims. We are victors.”

Brian Bledsoe 

When Brian Bledsoe became a Christian in late 2007, he started reassessing his allegiance to the Democratic Party.

“I was voting Democrat because my parents said, 'Just go and vote,'” the 35-year-old from Dallas said. “I wanted to vote according to my values. I sat back and, basically, went a blank slate.”

Bledsoe started listening to conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity while keeping an ear tuned on liberal political commentators as well. One day, as he was listening to Keith Olbermann, a liberal pundit, Bledsoe realized the Democratic Party wasn’t for him and that he was a conservative.

“These things line up with my values and that’s when the light went off,” Bledsoe said. “At that moment, when it happened, I was like: ‘You telling me I have to vote Republican?’ I was just kind of shocked, in a way.”

Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee doesn’t know who she’s voting for this year, but she knows what she wants in a candidate.

“I’m looking for someone who’s committed to criminal justice reform. As a young woman of color, I see what our system has done to young people of color. And I think that’s a great way to reach across the aisle and to reach out to our demographic,” said the 33-year-old national spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity, a grassroots campaign targeting millennials.

Lee also wants to hear about higher education reform and student loan debt, but most 2016 GOP presidential candidates haven’t been very vocal about that.

“The candidates who are willing to take on some of those issues -- that’s who I want to hear from and, unfortunately, I haven’t heard enough of that,” she said.

Lee says her upbringing explains why she's a Republican.

“[My parents] taught us about personal responsibility. They taught us about working hard [and] buying property, owning something that we can then pass down to someone else so that we don’t have to start from scratch every single time,” she said.

“That’s what drew me into the conservative network and that’s what keeps me here -- and I want to see other young people have opportunity like I have.” 

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