In the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s decisive victory in the 2012 election, Republican political strategists have made no secret of their goal to expand their party’s reach and have begun an active courtship of Black and minority voters.
At a meeting inside the Georgia Pacific building on Thursday in downtown Atlanta, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus started making some of the first moves in what he called, “changing the course of the Republican party for years to come.”
“I don’t think this is gonna be a cheap process,” said Priebus of future GOP efforts. “I think it’s gonna be broad, big, bold and expensive. No matter what the issue is, no matter where the voters are you have to be in the community. You have to ask for the sale on a year-round basis, not just three months before an election.”
Priebus spoke with a number of Black Republicans including former elected officials, students, business owners and activists, from around Georgia in a closed-door meeting before speaking with members of the media.
The RNC Chairman said that he’s looking to put serious resources into Black communities in Atlanta and around the nation.
“What this meeting was about is the relevancy of our message in our communities, because our message is very relevant today,” said Camilla Moore, an African-American woman and conservative activist who took part in the meeting. “What the RNC has to do is whatever resources that they have, our community needs to hear from people that look like them.”
Former Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell, a Black Republican who joined Priebus in leading the meeting, also talked about the importance and difficulty of turning Black voters to the grand Ole Party.
“There is absolutely nowhere to go but up for this party when it comes to engaging the African-American community and our voter totals at the national level,” said Bell. “So I look forward to seeing how far up we go, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Bell also spoke to the perception of many African Americans and community leaders who accused the GOP of attempting to suppress their votes in the 2012 election.
“The only way you can fight this bogus perception of voter suppression is to be there registering people to vote because you want to see people at the ballot,” he said. “You respect the fact of everything that happened to acquire that right to vote and you hold it so solemn that you don’t care how they vote, you get out there and you make sure that they do vote. I think that can at least show that this party is willing and able to make sure that we uphold that right, that people fought and died for and that’s the right to vote.”
Priebus was less inclined, however, to talk about the voter ID laws.
“We didn’t get into that at all,” said Priebus. “But we did talk about voter registration. Sometimes if you don’t show up and make the sale, it’s easy for the caricature to become true.”
In response to a question about addressing issues between talk radio and tea party figures who have been lightning rods for criticism from the Black community, Priebus said the party had no plans to run from them.
“If we’re gonna be a party that grows by addition and multiplication, I’m not gonna sit here and throw anyone under the bus,” he said. “I think that, like I said before, we have an open door and that means everybody’s in. That means conservatives, tea party, libertarian, folks in the middle, people don’t agree with me 100 percent of the time. Listen, I don’t agree with my wife 100 percent of the time and we’ve got a pretty good marriage. The fact is, we have to be that kind of party, the party for everyone. So I guess I’m not gonna go there with the question.”