Donald Trump is All-In For HBCUs. Can We Count On the Rest of the Republican Party to Join In?

Conservatives must become more visible and vocal on behalf of federal and state HBCU interests.

Conservatives must become more visible and vocal on behalf of federal and state HBCU interests.

At some point in the next two weeks, leaders from historically black colleges and universities will meet with President Donald Trump and executive proxies to figure out the best ways to support these institutions. That meeting will come on the heels of a pre-game session between black college reps and federal lawmakers, in an effort to put an all-out Capitol Hill press on Black America to believe in a party that has bemoaned its inability to connect with our voting block.

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Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) are leading the outreach to the HBCU delegation, which if all goes right should broker the beginnings of serious conversations between black communities and the Grand Old Party which has been too grand to ask for support beyond black evangelicals for more than 40 years.

But what became dire in 2008 and 2012 has become an outright conservative crisis in the era of Trump, who with the rumored help of Russia, could dismantle Republican prospects for mid-term success in 2018.

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Unfortunately, Scott and Walker do not comprise the totality of the Republican goodwill tour of HBCU culture. They do not even make up the largest part of its stronghold, and those who do, elected officials in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Georgia, remain as silent on the issues as they have ever been, on a subject that could boost their credibility in states where they don’t particularly need black votes to commandeer elections.

Nearly 50% of the majority leadership in the US Senate represents HBCU interests with their voting and maneuvering; Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, John Cornyn from Texas and Roy Blount from Missouri. None have publicly commented on or committed to attending this month’s HBCU fly-in, which some reports suggest will welcome more than 60 HBCU presidents.

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We need them to speak up on this. Even if these events are political posturing with which they don’t agree, or are concerned could offend their respective Alt-Right bases, there is great power in ranking conservatives in going to bat for HBCUs. What Republican does not support more affordable higher education, workforce development for poor and underserved communities, and job creation in under-developed towns and cities?

HBCUs should have long ago become the golden goose of conservative politics. And but for the pesky intersections of race and politics in America, and the first black president who didn’t work out so well for black colleges, they might have gotten there three years ago during the height of divided loyalties between the Democratic party and the HBCU community.

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Alma Adams, Joyce Beatty, Sanford Bishop, G.K. Butterfield, Emanuel Cleaver, James Clyburn, Elijah Cummings, Al Green, Kamala Harris, Alcee Hastings, Hank Johnson, Al Lawson, Gregory Meeks, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Cedric Richmond, David Scott, Bennie Thompson, Frederica Wilson. That’s the list of people genetically wired with HBCU DNA whom we expect to support HBCUs on Capitol Hill, with a dash of Marcia Fudge.

But how many Republicans can we list off as HBCU advocates real or imagined? With only seven seats on the 36-member bi-partisan HBCU Caucus, there is room for a conservative enlightenment on black issues beginning with higher education.

In today’s political climate, what conservative does not want to have improved race relations as a part of their earliest and most compelling initiatives one year in advance of mid-term elections? What part of the GOP playbook says it is dirty pool to help more black students go to college, to earn a degree and to become a tax-paying member of society through support for HBCUs; schools where they wouldn’t have to worry about those itchy buzzwords; safe space, micro-aggressions, and inclusion?

But more importantly, what the hell do they have to lose?