Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) was asked over the weekend about his party's outreach to minority communities. "I'll believe it when I see it," the African-American Republican responded. He added, "Now after we've got our heads handed to us constantly over the last two elections, now all of a sudden we're saying, 'Hey you want to go to the movies with me, you want to go to happy hour with me?'"
There's ample reason for skepticism, but the chairman of the RNC is still making an effort.
As part of the Republican Party's plan to expand its appeal following GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's loss in last year's election, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will visit Cleveland on Friday to conduct a "listening session" with roughly forty African-American community leaders from Northeast Ohio. [...]"As part of the Republican Party's effort to grow and expand our party, it's imperative we engage with different communities and groups from across the country and there's no better place than Ohio to begin this conversation," said a statement from Priebus.
There's really nothing wrong with this sort of outreach. Priebus realizes his party faced a demographic crisis and I don't blame him at all for making an effort to launching a "listening" tour. Sure, the RNC has said and done the same thing before, without making any real changes, but maybe this time will be different. Who knows.
But I hope Priebus realizes that "listening" is only half of a conversation, and the African-American community likely wants to hear him speaking, too. Is the RNC chairman prepared to denounce his party's voter-suppression tactics? How about the ugly and racist rhetoric coming from elements of his party's base? Can he explain why the RNC remained silent during the Jason Richwine fiasco? How about relying on racial divisions to win elections for the better part of multiple generations?
I'm confident he's not the only one ready to "listen."