This week, Republican National Committee chairman Reinhold Reince Priebus held an “African American listening tour.” It’s part of the GOP leader’s attempt to figure out what went wrong in 2012, and how to bring more voters into the Republican tent.
Monday’s stop brought Priebus to Brooklyn, where he huddled with a select group of black Republicans at the Christian Cultural Center, which boasts 37,000 members, and a pastor, the Rev. A.R. Bernard, who’s flirted with running for New York mayor as a member of the GOP.
The backdrop? Exit polls showing President Obama won 93% of African American voters and 71% of Latino voters in the last election. And while minority voters made up 28% of the electorate in 2012, by 2020, 30% of those going to the polls will be non-white. Given that, you’d think Priebus would take the time to listen to a tough question or two from those of us in the media, who got a chance to hear from him before they went behind closed doors. And that he’d maybe even…I don’t know…answer? Not so.
That’s why my letter today is to Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus.
Dear Reince, can I call you Reince?
It’s me, Joy.
Your Brooklyn visit was really, well… instructive.
Specifically, New York state GOP Chair Ed Cox, who appeared alongside you, instructed us about the history of your party–reminding us all that it was a Republican, President Lincoln, who signed the 13th Amendment and that another Republican, Chief Justice Earl Warren, wrote the majority opinion in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
All true. But Cox said that in answer to a question about what the GOP has to offer black voters today. And 1865 and 1954 were a long time ago. Neither you nor Cox could come up with an example of the Republican party’s proud racial history more recent than the early 1970s, when President Richard Nixon enacted school desegregation–and even that he did kicking and screaming.
Speaking in front of a black audience this week, you displayed masterful insight acknowledging that Mitt Romney’s 47% remarks did not help your party last November. But it was your party that selected the One Percenter as its standard bearer. And in an answer to my question, about how your party would deal with its more recent history–those voter ID billboards, including in your home state, designed to make minority voters “feel like they’re being followed by the police”… those early voting restrictions that disproportionately impacted black and brown voters.
The right-wing media who disparage African Americans as lazy welfare cheats, but who members of your party are too afraid to stand up to? You know–recent Republican history.
No, what you said on Monday, is that to win over minority voters, quote: “you’ve got to show up.” In fact, you said it a lot. You used the phrase nearly a dozen times by my count.
Reince, you came to Brooklyn because last November it was minority voters who showed up. Your party’s efforts in the last election cycle to suppress the vote galvanized African Americans to turn out in higher numbers than in 2008–and I hate to break it to you, but chatting with a group of African Americans who are already Republicans won’t do much to change that. And neither will reminding us what your party did for us in 1865, or 1954, or during the Seventies.
Even if you “show up,” and say it at church.