Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
After having their presidential and congressional candidates almost entirely ignored by the Black electorate over the past several years, the Republican Party is once again attempting to reach out to Black voters. This time, their quest for Black support started in Brooklyn.
Last week, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus ventured deep into Brooklyn — East New York, to be exact — to meet with Pastor A.R. Bernard. Bernard is the leader of the Christian Cultural Center, a megachurch with more than 30,000 congregants located on Flatlands Avenue. Besides his church duties, reports the Daily Beast, Bernard has become the person politicians go to when they want to discuss how to win Black voters. Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to see Bernard before his mayoral run and Priebus’ visit was no different — he wanted to know how to get more Black votes for the GOP.
Dubbed a “listening session,” Priebus and Bernard’s meeting included a few other prominent African-Americans, a handful of whom were Republicans. Other guests included The Wire actor Jamie Hector and New York Jets player Curtis Martin.
Unfortunately, because the meeting was closed off from the press, we don’t know what happened behind those doors. However, on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Priebus gave a speech titled “The Party of Growth and Opportunity,” and the address was meant to show the GOP as being open to new membership and diversity. Citing a “real urgency of connecting with minority communities,” Priebus said “the RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic, community or region of this country.”
To that end, Priebus noted today that the RNC is going to quickly move forward with a grassroots effort to entice Blacks, Latinos and other minorities to the GOP fold.
By May 1st, we will hire National Political Directors for Hispanic, Asian-Pacific, and African American voters. We will task each director to build a team to educate each community on the history and principles of the Republican Party and identify supporters.
This will be a bottom-up approach, and we’ll have a network of hundreds of paid people across America from the community level up to the national level dedicated to minority, youth, and women inclusion. We will conduct a pilot program in targeted urban markets to test and refine these engagement efforts.
While only time will tell if the GOP’s work in “urban markets” is successful, it’s important to note that bureaucrats and serious talk alone won’t be the GOP’s magic bullet. If the party would truly like to change how it’s perceived by Blacks and others, it’s going to have to change how its leaders vote and lead on issues important to minority voters.
A pilot program in a Black neighborhood won’t work, for instance, if through that pilot program Black voters learn that GOP congressmen are constantly talking about dismantling Obamacare and restricting abortion. These are the ways you alienate Black voters, and until you can change that at the very top of the GOP, it seems unlikely any grassroots effort to attract African-Americans is going to do much.
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