A few weeks ago, Trump puzzled African American leaders with comments strongly suggesting that he thought that Frederick Douglass was still alive. Yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos characterized historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as models of school choice, which a Howard University historian said was "a bit crazy."
On Friday I learned that I was selected to give remarks today for the meeting at the White House with members of the Trump administration, most notably Secretary Betsy DeVos. We learned this weekend that there would be closing remarks by Vice President Pence, but the goal was for officials from a number of Federal agencies (about 5 were there including OMB) and Secretary DeVos to hear about HBCUs.
That all blew up when the decision was made to take the presidents to the Oval Office to see the President. I’m still processing that entire experience. But needless to say that threw the day off and there was very little listening to HBCU presidents today- we were only given about 2 minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today.
The Republican Party has been botching African American outreach for decades.
Reeling from back-to-back presidential losses and struggling to cope with the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup, the Republican National Committee plans to spend $10 million this year to send hundreds of party workers into Hispanic, black and Asian communities to promote its brand among voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012.
On December 25, 2003, Darryl Fears wrote in The Washington Post:
Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said increasing his party's share of the black vote is "a top, top priority."
The party is looking into establishing chapters at historically black colleges and universities, he said. Gillespie recalled Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) telling him that the GOP should target black voters between 18 and 35 "because they are most likely to not identify as Democrats."
During a trip to Pittsburgh in July, Gillespie said, he met with Marc H. Morial, the new president of the National Urban League. While in Detroit last month, Gillespie said, he talked for two hours with editors at the Michigan Chronicle, one of the nation's few black daily newspapers. The party has arranged with American Urban Radio to broadcast a weekly message to the huge African American audience the network reaches.
Gillespie declined to specify how much the party will spend, saying he did not want the Democratic leadership to know. "But we're budgeting for it," he said.
The president-elect has shared with me, over a long period of time now, his desire to see the party broaden, to broaden its base, and to bring additional people in. He has led by example in this regard here in the state of Texas. He's made it clear that this is the goal that he wishes that the party to achieve, to bring more people in from the Hispanic community, the African-American community, all regions of the United States of America, and to make this party broader even than it is now.
On Tuesday (9/16), for instance, the party will announce its latest minority outreach program, the first serious effort at attracting minorities to the GOP since the short chairmanship of the late Lee Atwater.
''We've got a lot to overcome,'' Michael Levy, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, acknowledged in an interview Friday. ''But we know that we're reaching out to people who share our beliefs ... and it's time to connect all the dots.''
The GOP with an obvious eye toward the 1998, and even 2000 election campaigns plans to spend $ 1.2 million over the next year to promote its ''New Majority Council,'' which will be charged not only with recruiting minority candidates but also with getting the GOP message out to minority groups.
More importantly, and in contrast to Atwater's largely rhetorical ''Big Tent'' efforts, the ''New Majority Council'' will become an institution within the Republican National Committee (RNC) under the direction of party co-chair Pat Harrison.
''We're going to take this a step beyond anything that Lee tried to do,'' said Levy.On September 11, 1997, Rachel Van Dongen wrote in Roll Call:
On Tuesday night, an all-star cast - including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss), House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga), Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman John Linder (Ga) - turned out for a fundraiser sponsored by Americans for a Brighter Future, a PAC aimed at recruiting minority Republican candidates.
Our goals are very simple," said Raynard Jackson, the founder and head of the group who has long been active in GOP circles, working for Sen. Kit Bond (Mo) and ex-Sen. John Danforth (Mo), with whom he helped push the nomination of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. "To get more minorities elected and interested in the Republican party."
"The party has demonstrated that they are very serious about minority outreach and I am convinced that we're going to take that message into 1998 and 2000," Jackson added. "I guarantee you that we'll see a browning of the Republican party."
Besides the turnout at the event on Tuesday, NRCC Chairman Linder said the committee, with the help of Hispanic Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla (Texas) and Watts, is paying greater attention to minority recruitment this cycle.
"We're emphasizing minority outreach more than we ever have before," said Linder.
And on a national level, RNC chair Nicholson and co-chair Pat Harrison are also intent on expanding minority participation in the "big tent" party. "We both share the strong goal (that) we want to make this party more inclusive," said Nicholson in a recent interview, adding that the RNC will soon be sending out newsletters in Spanish.
On March 12, 1995, A.L. May wrote in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Republicans don't have to abandon our principles to reach out to minorities. We have only to rediscover them," [Rep. J.C.] Watts told "Project Pioneer," a candidate seminar sponsored by the Republican National Committee.
The event's name denotes a new frontier for a party that has either ignored or been rejected by the black community for 30 years. It also reflects a renewed strategy by RNC Chairman Haley Barbour to follow the "big tent" game plan started by the late Lee Atwater in the late 1980s.
"We Republicans have made a terrible mistake over the years in not aggressively seeking the millions of black voters who agree with us on the issues," said Barbour, who argues that there is now a pool of conservative blacks willing to consider the GOP.
On May 21, 1991, RNC chair Clayton Yeutter told the National Federation of Republican women:
We're also going to work outreach very hard, the minority votes, in 1992. My personal impression is that -- and there are a good number of minority folks represented in the room here today. My personal impression is that minorities are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Democrats who simply promise them things and never ever come through with anything in the real world. It is apparent that the jobs that have been generated for minorities in the last decade or so come because of Republican administrations and Republican policies, not Democratic administrations -- because there weren't any -- and not Democratic policies. And we need to make sure that's understood.
On April 24, 1989, Richard Benedetto wrote in USA Today:
Republican efforts to attract more minority voters have shifted into higher gear heading toward the 1990 elections.
GOP National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater has been wooing Asians, Hispanics and blacks in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Atwater met with state Republican leaders Friday in Newport Beach, Calif., urging them to make reaching out to minorities a priority.
President Bush, encouraged by polls that show his support among blacks higher than predecessor Ronald Reagan's, will speak at the May 13 commencement of predominantly black Alcorn State University in Mississippi. Alcorn State President Walter Washington said he's invited every president since Lyndon Johnson; Bush is the first to accept.
''Even a small increase in minority votes (for Republicans) will make the difference between victory and defeat in many elections,'' Atwater told the GOP officials.
[RNC Chairman Lee] Atwater's mentor, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), was a symbol and beneficiary of the white backlash that drove millions, including Thurmond, out of the Democratic Party and into the GOP. But now, Atwater said in an interview, "minority outreach is my command focus, and I'm going to insist it drive my daily schedule."
Through appointments to administration jobs and party posts, Atwater hopes to spur the creation of "an alternative leadership structure" in black communities. "Affirmative action has worked, and there's now a much larger black middle class," he said. Pointing to surveys showing weaker Democratic identification among young, better-educated blacks, Atwater said, "The time is right for us to reach out to them."
Unstated by Atwater but acknowledged by other GOP operatives is the fact that the "outreach" strategy could not have worked with Ronald Reagan in the White House and the Justice Department leading the battle against civil rights rulings obtained under previous Democratic administrations.
The Republican Party embarked on a new program Saturday to enlist minority participation because, GOP Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf said, Republicans ''do not intend to turn our backs on black Americans.''
''No subject is more critical to the future of our party than minority participation,'' Fahrenkopf told the summer meeting of the Republican National Committee.
The RNC created an advisory commission on minority participation to study the problem. Historically, the Republican Party has done poorly among black voters. President Reagan got only 9 percent of the black vote in 1984.
Fahrenkopf named Edward Lujan, chairman of the Republican Party in New Mexico, to head the commission.
''The purpose of the commission is to make recommendations to the RNC chairman with the goal of taking steps to attract more minority commmunities into our party's activities,'' Faharenkopf said.
On May 15, 1982, Richard E. Cohen wrote in National Journal:
It appears to be the Mission Impossible of the 1982 campaign, but Richard N. Richards, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is pulling no punches. "It's very important we elect one or more black Republicans to the House this year," he said in an interview. "I'm very confident we will."
In light of the Reagan Administration's repeated gaffes on civil rights issues and the high unemployment rate among blacks, Richards's goal may seem especially improbable. But the GOP already has two apparently strong candidates for November, and several others are possible. "We have to be concerned," said a Democratic political aide.
No black Republican has served in the House since 1928. In recent years, the national party has trumpeted its "outreach" efforts to expand the party's racial base. But Richards concedes those efforts have failed and says the way to succeed is to elect some black Republicans who can symbolize efforts to expand black trust in the GOP "I can't do that on my own," Richards said, adding, however, that things could change once Republicans make blacks feel comfortable within the party.
On July 13, 1980, Martin Tolchin wrote in The New York Times:
With black unemployment rising at a rate about double the national average, inner cities eroding and President Carter cutting social programs, Republican Party leaders hope this year to make inroads into the traditionally Democratic black vote.
''There's a lot of opportunity there,'' said Bill Brock, the Republican national chairman.
Detroit was selected as a convention site, at Mr. Brock's behest, at least in part because the
Republicans hoped to make it a symbol of a new commitment to older cities, to blue-collar workers and minority groups.
In their preconvention deliberations, the Republicans unanimously adopted a new platform plank on black Americans for the first time in modern history. The plank urged Federal programs for the inner cities, strong enforcement of civil rights statutes, and a nondiscriminatory system of Federal appointments.
The plank said: ''For millions of black Americans, the past four years have been a long trail of broken promises and broken dreams. The Carter Administration entered office with a pledge to all minorities of a brighter economic future. Today there are more black Americans unemployed than the day Mr. Carter became President.''
The plank was the work of Ronald Reagan's political strategists, who say that he will address the concerns of black Americans from a conservative viewpoint.
On August 8, 1977, Newsweek reported:
Bob Dole meant to win black friends with his conciliatory speech to the National Urban League last week, but he committed a gaffe that undid his mea culpas. "We may have gotten what we deserved in terms of the black vote in 1976," the Republican Vice Presidential candidate began. ". . . I'll confess we haven't done enough. I promise we'll do more. We can't run with Lincoln any more." Unfortunately, Dole's speech didn't end there. "Vernon [Jordon] said he was sending a warning to both parties," the Kansas senator declared. "We got ours. We got ours in spades." There was an audible ripple of groans. "That's not offensive to me," Dole said later. "In the Midwest that means we were clobbered . . . I don't think it's anything at all unless somebody makes something of it."