The Republican party loves to remind voters that it is "the party of Lincoln"--but in the most recent election, only 6% of African-American voters cast their ballots for the GOP's Mitt Romney. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, determined to overcome that deficit, has launched a $10 million minority outreach campaign, including a tour of urban centers that brought him to the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn last month.
"Today is about listening, today is a start. I'm not coming here with all the answers, but I am coming here with an open heart, an open mind," Priebus said. "Only time will tell if this is just talk, but all I can tell you is what's in my heart and what our desire is as a party."
Fellow Republican and leader of that church Reverend A.R. Bernard, who joined Priebus there, believes Priebus' desire to bridge the gap is genuine. "Having met and spoken with Reince Priebus that he's sincere," he said on Tuesday's PoliticsNation. "But... it's going to take time."
"I think the Republican party has to think more than just re-branding, it has to rethink its message and its policies," he said, pointing out that government services are important to people in urban and suburban "concentrated areas." Rev. Bernard thinks a message of lower taxes, rather than one of cutting programs, could help the GOP more.
As Buzzfeed chronicled, people outside Rev. Bernard's Christian Cultural Center knew Mitt Romney, and his "47%" legacy, far better than they knew Reince Priebus. "Each of the half-dozen people interviewed said they voted for Obama in November. They all complained, unprompted, that Republicans only cared about rich people."
Rev. Bernard doesn't expect overnight change from the Republican party. "I think [Priebus] is sincere in listening but I don't know if that's going to translate into the kind of action that can be measurable immediately," he said. "When you're talking about spending $10 million, that's not a lot of money when you're considering the need for a long term strategy to deal with the issue of the relationship between African-Americans and the Republican party. It's going to take more than that."