By William Reed
“Brighter days are ahead.”
“The check is being put in the mail.”
That is what the Republicans seem to be saying after they released their “Growth and Opportunity Project” report in March. Six months after Republicans took a drubbing in the 2012 elections, GOP National Committee Chair Reince Priebus announced a $10 million outreach program to seek more minorities as members.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) provides national leadership for the Party. It is responsible for developing and promoting the Republican political platform, coordinating fundraising and election strategy. The problem for Priebus and the party is that the RNC is often viewed as “an old White guy’s club” that is unsympathetic to the needs of Blacks and minorities.
So, in March, Priebus decided that it was time for the party to “call Tyrone.” In past months, the Republicans set new goals for “outreach” and their spring meeting was to “focus on putting the party on a path to fulfill” their goals. The agenda for the RNC’s spring conference called for strategy sessions and workshops on voter outreach and party coordination.
The “Growth and Opportunity Project” chided the Republicans for not dealing with “shifting” voter demographics. Just after the “Growth and Opportunity Project” was announced, the RNC tapped Raffi Williams, son of TV newscaster, Juan, to be an African-American press contact with a focus on youth outlets. During the spring meeting in Hollywood, Calif., the RNC announced hiring Asian and Pacific Island field and communications directors and election of a state party director “to support and empower the work of grassroots activists and volunteers.” There are reports that “some RNC members discussed working with minority media” in their quest.
In past months, the Republicans haven’t actually called Tyrone, and have stepped back from the heady days of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” announcement. Short of sending checks in the mail to Black voters, the Republicans face long odds connecting with them. Unless, the Grand Ole Party expands its level of electoral support, it could slide into complete irrelevance.
Bottom line is the Republicans will need minority media to develop meaningful relationships and channels of communication to change Black Americans attitudes. The way Republicans make inroads among African Americans is to help them gain weight in their wallets. Priebus and Company need to take public policy positions that have potential to advance Blacks’ interests. As they make their way through the “hood,” Republicans can make much of the fact that Black population, uptown and in suburbia, have always done well economically under their governance. Under Republicans, Blacks could again know political reciprocity like they did the last time they supported a Republican presidential ticket in any sizeable numbers, and gave Richard Nixon more than 30 percent of their vote. Nixon, in turn, generated millions of dollars through Black-oriented programs and projects.
In 2012, just 5 percent of African Americans considered themselves Republicans. And Republicans need to do more than shout slogans to gain higher numbers of African American registrants. It’s time greater numbers of Blacks and Republicans align in projects that generate mutual benefits. Such alliances can repair and bring new successes to Black communities. In the past, Republican practices have helped empower Blacks – from President Lincoln’s Emancipation to Booker T. Washington’s post-slavery practices of commerce to Richard Nixon’s endorsements for “minority enterprise.”
Even a slight GOP inroad among Blacks could swing a state or two in close 2014 elections and the 2016 presidential contest. The promotion of the Republican brand among Black Americans requires messages that connect with the realities of Black life in America. As opposed to tepid trials of the past, the GOP’s chiefs and corps have to move quickly to have a meaningful presence among Blacks, and at their community events and cultural ceremonies.
The RNC should have no reservations in chronicling that they’ve “made progress” in mending relationships with African Americans; but for the party to be viable on the national stage so much more needs to be done.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.