During the 2012 campaign, former Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser (pictured) – who at the time was national finance chair for the Republican National Committee – told a tea party meeting that voters in Detroit are picked up at “pool halls and…barbershops,” and bussed “from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times.” He added that no one would be going “where those pool halls and barbershops are” to get out the vote in November, at least “not without a side arm.”
Then in December 2012, during the lame duck legislative session, legislative Republicans discussed voting to split up Michigan’s electoral votes by Congressional district. The scheme would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes in 2012, despite him losing the state by 450,000 votes. In comments to Slate, former Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis claimed that voters from the city of Detroit “distort the rest of the state.”
So it was curious, to say the least, that yesterday in Detroit, Washington and Michigan Republicans marked their decade-long failed outreach campaign to communities of color with the announcement that they hired a staffer to direct African-American engagement, appointed a “Michigan Black Advisory Council,” and will soon be opening an office in Detroit. Republicans claim – as they did in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, and earlier this year – that this is an “aggressive plan” that will “change the political landscape.
Haven’t we heard this story before? Republicans in Michigan and Washington have promised repeatedly that this time will be different, this time they’ll actually listen to the needs of key constituencies. But, after Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s crusade to make it harder for African Americans to vote, the GOP’s ongoing campaign to prevent 7.1 million uninsured black Americans from accessing affordable health care, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager law ensuring that over half of black Michiganders no longer have the right to vote for local elected officials, the GOP has yet again proven that are so far out of touch, they can’t even see it
No number of new offices or new hires will allow Republicans to explain away that harsh reality
This week, as they celebrate a decade of telling the same story about their “outreach efforts” to African American, Latino, and other Democratic-leaning voters, one must ask: what, exactly, are they doing differently from a decade ago? The answer is clear: absolutely nothing.
Below are just a few of the times national Republicans have tried to rebrand the party in the last decade:
2003: Marc Racicot: “Expanding Our Base By Recruiting New Republican Activists From Traditionally Strong And Democratic Constituencies Is Our Number One Priority.” “Republicans must attract more minority candidates and voters into their ranks even though that process will take time and lots of work, the GOP’s national chairman says. Marc Racicot told members of the Republican National Committee on Friday that the minority outreach is crucial for the party’s future, adding ‘it’s the right thing to do.’ ‘Expanding our base by recruiting new Republican activists from traditionally strong and Democratic constituencies is our number one priority,’ Racicot said after he was re-elected as chairman without opposition.” [AP, 2/1/03]
2005: Ken Mehlman Launched “Conversations With The Community” A National Tour Of Meetings With African Americans. “Ken Mehlman, chairman of the RNC, embarked on ‘Conversations with the Community,’ a national tour of meetings with black Americans. He also announced the formation of an RNC African-American Advisory Committee. ‘If you give us a chance, we’ll give you a choice,’ has become his standard line to black audiences.” [Baltimore Sun, 4/24/05]
2005: The RNC Launched An Outreach Program For Urban And Minority Voters. “Republican leaders on Thursday used Pittsburgh — a city controlled by Democratic elected officials for seven decades — as an example of where the GOP hopes to expand its membership with minorities and inner-city voters who traditionally align more with Democrats. ‘We believe there are many people that populate these urban cities that are Republican-leaning,’ said Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Jo Ann Davidson. ‘We’re not giving up on the urban centers.’ [… ] A strategy session yesterday included a panel discussion about ways the GOP can attract more blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other groups. Many of the 280 conference participants from all 50 states attended the discussion. The meeting was closed to the press.” [Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 8/5/05]
2008: Mike Duncan Unveiled A Website To Fight The Perception That The Republican Party Is “A Party Of Old White Guys.” “A week after the election, and five days after Rebuild the Party was introduced, RNC Chairman Mike Duncan unveiled RepublicanForAReason.com, which he describes as ‘a grassroots site that Republicans can use to tell us what they think of the party.’ He says the party has lost the trust of its members and the site ‘is a big part of understanding and communicating with them.’ He agrees with Finn that the GOP is viewed ‘as a party of old white guys.’ ‘And I’m saying that as a 57-year-old white guy.’ He quickly adds: ‘But I use technology. I’ve got three BlackBerrys. I’ve got a Kindle.’ He promises that the RNC’s Internet division — headed by Cyrus Krohn, formerly of Microsoft and Yahoo — will get more resources, calling it ‘a big priority for the RNC.’” [Washington Post, 11/25/08]
2010: Michael Steele: “No Matter How Blue Or Purple We Must Compete For Every Seat.” “RNC Chairman Michael Steele unveiled a new Republican Party program today aimed at taking advantage of a political environment that is currently tilting heavily in the GOP’s direction. ‘Throw out the old maps, folks. We need you — the American people need you to create a new one,’ said the guaybera-clad Steele as he addressed members of the RNC at the party’s winter meeting here in Honolulu, HI. Steele urged the party faithful that Republicans must adjust their thinking and prepare to compete everywhere from Delaware to Hawaii (the first state to the 50th state) or D2H as the program is called. ‘No matter how blue or purple, we must compete for every seat,’ Steele added.” [ABC News, 1/29/10]
Michigan Democratic Party