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“Republicans’ ‘Dear John’ Letter to Blacks”

Jarett Fields ER Room:

Jarett Fields

There was a brief moment that Republicans were interested in courting Black voters.

They learned from their mistakes, saw how African Americans came out to the polls for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, and figured they should give us a try.

Over the first half of this year, Republican National Chairman, Reince Priebus, flew around the country meeting with Black leaders in an effort to find common ground.

It was a good idea. But it’s over now. No goodbye, no kiss on the cheek.

Just a plain and simple, Dear African Americans: We are shutting down the government because your President won’t give us what we want. It’s over!

The government shutdown is a clear symbol of Republican disinterest in issues most important to African Americans around the country.

Like many other federal hiccups, the shutdown will disproportionately affect African Americans, especially the elderly, women, and children.

For current Medicaid and Medicare recipients, benefits will continue as normal. However, as a result of the government shutdown no new applications will be processed.

That means millions of African Americans with chronic diseases like high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease will be left out in the cold, waiting for the government to reopen before they can receive benefits.

And, the same goes for low-income working families applying for Medicare.

Benefits for African American families receiving Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional supplements were cut off on October 1.

While states have continued WIC funding, the USDA projected those will disappear in about a week. That means, nearly nine million African Americans left without means for buying formula, food vouchers, or access to vital health and nutrition related information.

The government shutdown has also ended funding for federal lunch programs, Head Start, and Title I grants.

Together, a total of 18 million African Americans will be affected by this. These programs are a necessity for many struggling families.

Federal lunch programs and Head Start are foundational to academic success for low-income families.

Consequently, there are no alternatives. And although private donors, like the Arnold Foundation, have offered funds to restore these programs, much more is needed.

The government shutdown might be a last ditch effort by Republicans to leverage media attention before the 2014 elections and undermine what in all likelihood could be the capstone of President Obama’s two terms.

But, the Affordable Care Act has already passed votes in the House and Senate.

Moreover, portions of the act, like the online marketplace where families can look over healthcare plans, were up and running on October 1.

In other words, the train has left the station. Prolonging the shutdown might help some Tea Party candidates in 2014, but it fails the long game strategy.

If Republicans hope to court Black voters, or Latino voters who are also disproportionately affected by the shutdown, in 2016, it’s best to call the President and offer an olive branch.

That way, they can hope that some African American voters will at least answer the phone when they call again.