The Republican National Committee recently released a 100-page document outlining the plan for re-branding and marketing the party. The Growth and Opportunity Project makes recommendations across a broad spectrum for growing the party and improving campaigns.
One of the focus areas of the report is demographics and messaging. The report bluntly criticized the party for its inability to connect with a diverse populace. The African American community can certainly attest to the findings of the report. It is the community that least connects to the Republican Party, and the one that the party is least concerned with building a working relationship. The relationship between the Republican Party and the African American community is certainly one in need of repair. In order for the GOP to attract African Americans, it has to stop talking about what it did for black people before the civil rights movement, and defend its actions since the civil rights movement.
The report harshly admonishes the party for being unable to connect with people that are not of a like-mind, color or economic status. "The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself," says the report. "We have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue." The core recommendation is that the Republican Party needs to develop a brand that invites and inspires minorities to join the party.
The GOP has yet to figure out how to speak to the black community in an inviting tone. The conservative movement and the GOP heavily rely on slave imagery when speaking to and with African Americans. CPAC was the latest venue where conservatives tried to use slave imagery in the context of the conservative movement.
For example, Frederick Douglass is the key to appealing to "blacks, Latinos, women, young people," explained K Carl Smith of the Fredrick Douglas Republicans. Smith is the latest in a long list of black conservatives served up to talk to what The Growth and Opportunity Project describes as the "ideological cul-de-sac." These black conservatives show up at Republican and conservative events and serve up messages that appeal to the like-minded but do nothing to invite people that disagree with them to listen. "Slavemaster-run health care;" "Slavemaster entitlements;" "Douglass was a 47 percenter;" "Slavemasters were Democrats;" "When someone that’s not an African American says 'I’m a Frederick Douglass Republican' … you’re not seen as a racist;" These were some of the warm inviting things that Smith said to the audience of presumably like-minded conservatives interested in how to defend themselves against accusations of being called a racist.
Allen West’s comments at CPAC were a perfect example of "preaching to the choir." "There is nothing on this green earth that a liberal fears more than a black American who wants a better life and a smaller government!" exclaimed West. That message certainly resonates with the like-minded, but if the "Harriet Tubman of the conservative movement" expects to connect with the African American community, he had better understand that it is not black liberals that African American fear. Rather it is a party and movement that on the one hand tries to promote its historical support of the black community while at the same time gerrymandering the congressional map so that the party districts get whiter, not more diverse, thereby ensuring that the only way for black Americans to be represented will be from the black liberal and Democratic districts. As it stands now, the GOP has restructured congressional districts so that they deliberately represent more white people than minorities.
The Growth and Opportunity Project states that in order to attract minorities the Republican Party has to engage the community and show sincerity. However, the party has simultaneously constructed a nation where they have a greater incentive to show up at local Rotary and Kiwanis barbecues then Martin Luther King Day celebrations. This is in stark contrast to the recommendation of the Growth and Opportunity Project to "establish a presence in African American communities."
The recommendations in the Growth and Opportunity Project report indicate just how far out of touch and uninviting the GOP has become to African Americans. They include developing a database of African American leaders and creating a program that is focused on recruiting and supporting African American Republican candidates for office. It also recommends utilizing African American elected officials as surrogates both in their communities and with the national media.
I see two major problems with this outreach strategy:
1. Senator Tim Scott is the only African American Republican in Congress.
2. they have gerrymandered themselves out of our neighborhoods.
These recommendations are so simplistic that they are insulting. It is almost as if they just realized that black people are part of the political landscape. What has this party been doing since the post-Civil Rights Movement era? Why is the so-called party of civil rights just now realizing that they need to build a database and show up in the neighborhood? That doesn't sound very inviting to me. The GOP is welcomed and encouraged to build bridges to the African American community. However, don’t talk about fear and try to compare yourself to liberals as if you haven’t been missing for 50 years.