You might start calling me a liberal, but we Republicans need to change


The secret to understanding Republicans’ path forward in urban America lies within the local midterm election data.

Look at how my City Council district, District 6, voted on issues. While many Republican candidates lost, the constitutional amendment to cap the income tax passed with 54 percent of the vote. When did Republicans lose the high ground with voters who wanted lower taxes? Nearly two-thirds of District 6 voters supported the $50 million affordable housing bond. How many Republican candidates have you ever heard campaigning on affordable housing?

Let’s strip everything else away except for our baseline conservative principles. Principles like smaller government, lower taxes, tax what you want less of and subsidize where you want more. Then, let’s actually start engaging with independents and progressives. Let’s talk on NPR and Power 98. Let’s go to the Black Political Caucus and Latin American Chamber events. And once we’ve actually heard what they care about, let’s show them through our actions how party balance is a good thing, and conservative principles can in many ways offer more effective and sustainable solutions.

What comes next some may not want to hear.

We may need to start campaigning on solving the affordable housing crisis and upward mobility challenges, and actually mean it through our actions. We might need to stop arguing about if climate change is real and instead come to the table to find ways to conserve the environment through pragmatic innovation. We might need to stop bristling when we hear terms like white privilege, #metoo and police brutality, and instead seek to better understand different perspectives and grow through conversations. And brace yourself, because we might actually need to engage with members of the LGBTQ community and show them that there is a dichotomy between our principles of smaller government and individual freedoms and the messages we have been sending. Messages like government should be in the business of telling people who can get married.

One thing I’m still unsure of in this blueprint is President Trump. There are things he is doing that I love, and there are things that I hate. Locally we are faced with the conundrum that if we say anything negative about the president, we will immediately lose half the room. If we say anything positive, or remain silent and not condemn his mere existence, we lose the other half. I have no idea how to resolve this, but if we all keep searching for an answer, remain sensitive to both perspectives, shun those using him in bad faith, and focus on local issues, we may find a path forward.

Our conservative principles can still resonate with many in America’s urban cities, but the data are telling us we aren’t applying and messaging them effectively. So I’ve decided this is the blueprint I am going to continue to follow in the final year of my first term on Charlotte City Council, but more vocally and confident in doing what is in my heart. I am sure some will start immediately calling me a RINO and liberal. Still, we cannot do this because we feel we need to do it to survive. We must do it because we believe it is the right thing to do.

Tariq Bokhari, a Republican, represents District 6 on the Charlotte City Council. Email: To listen to Bokhari discuss this issue on his podcast, go to