WASHINGTON – Former Gov. Rick Perry took his case for the GOP presidential nomination to the nation’s capital Thursday, arguing that it is the Republican Party’s moral and historical duty to court black voters.
“For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found we didn’t need it to win,” he said in an appearance at the National Press Club. “But when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln.”
The remarks came in the wake of last month’s mass shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, which left nine people dead.
The tone of Perry’s speech fit with a concerted, years-long Republican National Committee effort to make the conservative case to black voters after the GOP’s 2012 presidential election loss.
Perry, a vociferous advocate for states' rights, conceded that the concept was used in previous eras to discriminate against black Americans.
“I know that state governments are more accountable to you than the federal government is,” he said. “But I am also an ardent believer in the 14th Amendment, which says that no state shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’"
“Too often, we Republicans, me included, have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th, an amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery,” he added.
Video Courtesy: Xiaolan Tang, Medill News Service
Perry’s speech, titled “Economic Opportunity for All Americans,” aimed to explain how broader conservative economic policies benefit black Americans.
He argued that GOP policies would reduce the cost of living, create jobs, reform schools and do “more for African-Americans than the last three Democrat administrations combined.”
The setting of the remarks, the National Press Club in downtown Washington, was especially crucial to Perry’s effort to gain credibility in the nomination race. National reporters largely exclude him in articles and discussions about the top tier of Republican candidates and contenders.
Perry will head to New Hampshire on Friday for a Fourth of July campaign swing.
A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee released a pre-emptive statement to Perry’s remarks, arguing that Texas policies on voter identification, minimum wage, Medicaid and other issues negated Perry’s arguments.
“Reminding black voters that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation isn’t going to erase Rick Perry’s record,” DNC spokesman Michael Tyler said in a statement.