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08 February 2013

Black Republicans to RNC Chairman: The Problem is not the Message, But Communication

Thursday afternoon, more than two dozen black Republicans gathered on the 49th floor of Atlanta's iconic Georgia-Pacific building to discuss ways the GOP can reach out and earn the votes of blacks across Georgia and America.

(RNC Chairman Reince Priebus meets with black Republicans in Atlanta. Photo by Andre Walker)
The meeting, which was held in the offices of Samuel L. Gude, III (President & CEO of Gude Management Group), was part of a listening tour conducted by Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus on Growing Our Party.

The Republicans in the room all agreed the GOP must do a better job communicating its message to the black community. The problem is not the message. The problem is communication. We have to get into black community and communicate the Republican message. And the message is clear. Republican policies promoting low taxes, entrepreneurship and small business ownership are far better for blacks like me than reliance on government programs that punish people for working.

During the meeting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, I communicated that to him.

Again, I highlighted simple facts. Since I started monitoring the statistics in 2010, the twenty, majority black counties in Georgia that vote overwhelmingly Democrat constantly see unemployment rates higher than either the state or national average. Blacks in these twenty counties are being left behind by the Democratic Party.

I said government programs supported by Democrats, like the Section 8 rent assistance program, penalizes people for making money.

In the real estate business, I see it everyday. A Section 8 tenant gets a job making more money, and the government immediately says to the tenant, "Since you're making more money, you can pay more rent. So we're increasing the amount of money you have to pay to your landlord, and decreasing the amount of money we're paying to the landlord."

As a result, the Section 8 tenant is right back where they started. They were punished by the government for getting a job and making money. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that folks receiving government assistance will ultimately come to the conclusion they'll get more by sitting on their behind and doing nothing, than they'll get from having a job and doing something. Republicans never talk about that, and we should.

Earlier this week, I wrote the Republican Party is closer to the vision of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., than the Democrats ever will be.

Near the end, both Martin and Malcolm were both talking about black economic empowerment. They both came to the conclusion that it's not enough to just be able to eat at every lunch counter or shop at every store. To become truly free and truly empowered, blacks have to own the stores and own lunch counters. Samuel L. Gude, III, the gracious host of Thursday's meeting with Chairman Priebus, is a black business owner and he's a Republican. Gude uses his business to hire other black people. He stimulates the economy everyday with his firm. Republicans need to spotlight these black business owners like Sam Gude as a model for black economic empowerment, and a model for the successes Republicans want all blacks to achieve.

We discussed highlighting the Republican Party's history, while also bringing attention to blacks in GOP leadership positions.

Consider this: The Chairman of the Gwinnett County Republican Party, Bruce Levell, is black and was at Thursday's meeting. The Chairman of the 8th congressional district Republican Party, Vivian Childs, is black and was at Thursday's meeting. The Senior Vice Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, George Williams, is black and he was at Thursday's meeting too. These are not token blacks. They weren't just given their positions because of their skin tone. These are black folks who came up through the ranks, worked hard and received support of GOP activists to become leaders in the Republican Party.

The Republican Party has to get into the black community. We have to be the party of Bankhead and Buckhead. We have to be on the campuses of the University of Florida and Florida A & M. And Republicans have to come up off some money to do all of that. Wallace Coopwood, the oldest black Republican in the room, put it very succinctly to Chairman Priebus. Talk is cheap, and the Republican National Committee needs to back up their talk with some cold hard cash.

RNC National Finance Chair Ray Washburne was in the room. Washburne is the guy who, along with Reince Priebus, has to convince Republican donors to give freely in support of African-American outreach. Priebus committed the Republican Party to black community outreach, and it is up to Washburne and Priebus to fund it.

This meeting, Thursday, was very frank. No one bit their tongues, and Chairman Priebus himself was taking notes (along with members of his staff) the entire time.

Thursday's meeting was a good first step. Chairman Priebus pledged to come back and present his plan for African-American outreach to the two dozen black Republicans present for their input. And yes, we got good press.

RNC chairman Priebus says party must reach out (WSB-TV)
Republican chairman wants more black support (Macon Telegraph)
RNC chairman, in outreach effort, to powwow with black leaders in Atlanta (The Hill)
RNC Chairman Meets With Black Leaders in Atlanta Looking to 'Change the Course of the Republican Party' (Atlanta Daily World)
Jackson only local invited to closed GOP meeting (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)
GOP seeks African American voters in Georgia (WXIA-TV)