To his credit, Reince Priebus, like many of his RNC predecessors, has acknowledged that his party has a problem when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity, and has made constructive comments about minority outreach.
But there are limits to the efficacy of rhetoric. When Priebus talks to minority communities, he invariably faces questions about the inherent contradictions of the Republican message: the party is simultaneously asking more African Americans to considers voting for GOP candidates, even as GOP officials make it deliberately more difficult for African Americans to vote.
The contradiction applies to state-based outreach, too.
[Earlier this week in North Carolina], Republican state officials filed to urge a federal court to dismiss two lawsuits challenging changes in North Carolina’s voting laws, changes opponents contend disproportionately harm African American voters. A third challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice is waiting in the wings.Monday evening in Charlotte, at the opening of the Republican National Committee’s African American engagement office in North Carolina, Earl Philip, North Carolina African American state director, said he believed in the message he has been taking to churches, schools and community groups.“Our platform has a lot in common with the African American community, which is strong families, believing in God, a strong economy and equal opportunity for all,” said Philip, one of three full-time staffers in the office.
And all of this certainly sounds nice. But there’s still the problem of the inherent conflict between what Republicans say to African-American voters and what Republicans do to African-American voters.
Asked about new voting restrictions imposed on North Carolinians by state Republican lawmakers, Philip said the new law is not a “voter suppression” bill.
Except it really is. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and his allies imposed voter-ID restrictions never needed before in North Carolina, narrowing the early-voting window, placing new restrictions on voter-registration drives, making it much harder for students to vote, ending same-day registration during the early voting period, and making it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters. All of these measures, according to the state’s own numbers, disproportionately affect African-American voters.
This week, North Carolina Republicans defended this law the same day they tried to expand their outreach to African-American voters.
When GOP officials stop to wonder why their outreach efforts seem to fail so spectacularly, I hope they’ll keep stories like these in mind.
Update: My MSNBC colleague Zachary Roth has a good report on McCrory appearing this week at the far-right Heritage Foundation, where he said he hasn’t paid “a lot of attention” to the voter-suppression issue, among other things.
Second Update: I’d originally noted a provision on limiting Sunday voting, but that was changed before the measure became law. I’ve edited the above text accordingly. For more, the bill as enrolled is available online here.