The cognitive dissonance of the Republican Party is something to behold. As the Republican National Committee chairman courts Blacks, his staff continues to find ways to alienate them. As national party Chairman Reince Priebus was reaching out to Black Americans at the National Urban League and the National Association of Black Journalists, the Republican National Committee communications’ staff was giving Black and brown media executives the boot.
Priebus seems well-intended regarding getting more Blacks on the Grand Old Party’s rolls. In an autopsy Priebus commissioned after Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the message the party received was that it desperately needed to build relations with minority voters and be more responsive to the concerns of Latino, Asian and Black communities. The Republican Party’s boss is trying to follow that script, but people in his employ are moving in the opposite direction.
Priebus was recently in central Florida to meet with leaders and talk about growing the party. RNC reports herald that Priebus held a roundtable discussion with the 20/20 Leaders of America group of African-American community leaders and elected officials, to which Priebus said “What we’re trying to do with the Republican Party is grow and listen and learn.”
Nobody doubts Priebus’ earnest efforts toward the party “establishing a presence in African-American communities and at Black organizations.” But, at the same time, Priebus was wooing Blacks in central Florida, back in Washington, D.C., RNC staff executives were telling leaders of the nations’ Black and brown publications to “get lost.” The Black press, aka National Newspaper Publishers Association, and the National Association of Hispanic Publishers have a National Advertising Task Force to tap into the $11.4 billion that will be spent on the 2016 elections.
The Republicans have been on the defensive regarding Blacks for so long, they can’t even fathom offensive messaging to us. What Priebus needs to do is take the message of freedom and economic opportunity to communities that rarely receive Republican visitations. Why is it that you never see Republicans aligning with Blacks on issues? It’s because the people charged to do the party’s messaging evidently don’t see it as worthwhile to invest in mediums that service Blacks.
When in comes to Republicans making inroads with Blacks, it’s sad, but if you don’t know, you just don’t know. Too many African-American voters have the habit of supporting Democrats without hearing anyone making a case to the contrary. Black voters’ contempt for the Republican Party runs deep. Most perceive Republicans as supporters of policies that hurt Black Americans – without any rebuke.
Sean M. Spicer is an example of the “old boy” thinking that hampers the RNC Black outreach. Spicer has served as RNC communications director since 2011, with a deep resume in Republican politics and ideology. He coordinates with broadcast networks and conservative media partners and serves as a liaison to the RNC staff on messaging opportunities and media strategy. Despite being in the national capital area for decades, Spicer evidently doesn’t recognize the Murphy and Rolark names or the entrée that they could provide to Black enclaves along the Washington-Baltimore corridor.
Because neither the Washington Afro nor The Informer means much to Spicer, people in charge of running the RNC will continue not knowing where to find Blacks. On the other hand, Black voters have socially and politically marginalized themselves with their unquestioning loyalty to the Democrat party. To people like Spicer, it’s a waste of valuable time and resources trying to convince Blacks to vote Republican when they seem overly content with the fact that their needs, voices and concerns are ignored and/or minimized.
Republicans need to do a better job connecting with Blacks. Instead of “photo ops” with civil rights leaders, Priebus should be increasing more Blacks’ awareness of the upside offered by conservative solutions to our concerns. Careful messaging through proper mediums is essential to the Republican Party’s survival. The Republicans could use Black newspapers and media for state-of-the-art political messaging to illustrate ways that it is champion of those earnestly seeking to climb life’s economic ladder.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and is available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.