Rather than rely on the network of well-established black operatives and bloggers to develop their program and distribute its message, the establishment wing of the Republican Party has selected novices to manage this critical outreach program. The appointments are a clear indication that the establishment wing of the party is willing to roll the dice and sacrifice the short term for the future.
The selection of relatively unknown black millennials is somewhat inconsistent with the RNC’s approach to other minority communities. The RNC has decided to hire experienced veterans to improve its relationship within the Hispanic and Asian communities.
As BET.com noted, the primary concern is that the “RNC passed over more seasoned candidates who'd hoped to help launch the outreach initiative.” Those seasoned veterans are rightfully concerned that these bright young stars do not have the experience and clout to fight for and obtain access to the finite amount of resources being allocated to the outreach programs.
BET.com reports that the RNC has allocated only $10 million to all of its minority outreach programs — Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and Native American, with the lion’s share targeted to the Hispanic program. Florida attorney Levi Williams opines, “They marginalize the outcome by either underfunding or not providing the resources necessary.”
Black strategists point out that in order to be effective, Council, Hartsfield and Williams are “going to have to engage some serious players from the black community.” That usually means relying on those “who have been in the trenches the longest" and who have a "wider net of influence and reach." BET.com pointed out that although “they are ‘bright young things,’ there is real concern that they don't yet have the experience or the gravitas to effectively sell the Republican message in African-American communities.”
Kira Davis, a conservative blogger and YouTube personality, believes she has the solution for effectively selling the conservative message to the black community. Writing for Independent Journal Review, Davis says, “It’s time we changed the delivery system.” She believes the party should rely on the “legion of minority pundits and bloggers waiting for the chance to fight on a larger battlefield for our values.” Davis says bloggers “are ready to persuade, debate and win hearts” and “are already used to being ridiculed and treated cruelly by those who see us as ‘sellouts’ or ‘Uncle Toms.’”
Davis says bloggers and activists like herself, Alfonzo Rachel, Chris Arps, Wayne Dupree, and Project 21 are already out there, engaging and doing the work. However they need support from the establishment wing of the party.
In an open letter to RNC Chairman Reince Preibus, Davis wrote, “We'd be honored to provide a forum where our communities can come and hear the real message of the party of abolition straight from the horse’s mouth. But we also have families to feed and rent to pay.”
Council, Hartsfield, and Williams do not come without potential and connections. Hartsfield, 32, was named to the National Journal’s “25 Most Influential Women of Washington under 35” list. Williams, 24, is the son of award-winning Fox News correspondent Juan Williams and was named one of Black Enterprise’s “10 Black Republicans You Probably Don't Know but should.” Council was profiled in an Ebony.com feature entitled “WOMEN UP: Black Women Rising in politics.”
But they aren’t the type of appointments that make people stand up, take notice, or open doors, wallets, minds, and ears. Levi Williams holds out hope, noting the relatively young ages of civil rights legends Dr. King and Medgar Evers when they started their careers. “You know, my old behind is not going to convince a 17-year-old to vote Republican next year, but a 24-year-old might,” said Williams.
Council told Townhall.com, “I'm basically going out to get African-Americans engaged on a level which they haven't been in a really long time.”
Conservativeblackchick Crystal Wright takes a more pessimistic view. She wrote, “I can’t decide if the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) minority outreach effort is more like watching a sitcom or a soap opera dubbed ‘The Young and the Foolish.’”
Raffi Williams challenges that pessimism. “There are conservative blacks across this country,” he told The Grio, “people that those communities ‘know and trust and have seen.’”
The RNC is gambling that Council, Hartsfield, and Williams have the ability to carry the conservative message and influence a new generation of voters. They will have to tap into the established black conservative network and secure funding for black conservative bloggers to make it so.