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WASHINGTON WATCH: Michael Steele On Romney’s Claims Of Obama Gifts, Future Of The GOP & Can The GOP Reach Minorities (VIDEO)

Last week’s exit polls showed that 93 percent of African-Americans and 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Barack Obama. As the electorate becomes more and more diverse, clearly the Republican Party has a problem — a big problem. But that is an opportunity for African-Americans, who often feel the Democratic Party takes them for granted.

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee and current MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss this and more.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

Last week’s exit polls showed that 93 percent of African-Americans and 71 percent of Latinos voted for President Barack Obama.  As the electorate becomes more and more diverse, clearly the Republican Party has a problem – a big problem.  But that is an opportunity for African-Americans, who often feel the Democratic Party takes them for granted.

How can we get the two parties competing for our vote?

Well, we’re talking about that with Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and current MSNBC political analyst.

Michael, welcome back to “Washington” –

MR. MICHAEL STEELE:  Good to be –

MR. MARTIN:  — “Watch.”

MR. STEELE:  — back.  Yeah, absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  This is interesting.  So, we’ve seen this week Republicans say, “Man!  We gotta compete.”  “We gotta compete [for a] hundred percent of the vote.”  Then, Mitt Romney comes out, and he’s talking to donors on a conference call, and he says, “Well, you know, President Obama gave these gifts” –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “to minorities.”

MR. STEELE:  [Chuckles.]  Right, right.

MR. MARTIN:  The healthcare for – to black folks and The Dream Act for kids – to Latinos, and young –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — people and women.  And I’m sitting there going, “That’s probably not gonna cut it.”

MR. STEELE:  No.  It – it doesn’t cut it and, in fact, I think you’ve already heard the likes of Governor Jindal, who’s now the head of the RGA – Republican Governors Association – come out and very clearly, with- — without hesitation, say, “That’s just not where we are.  That’s not where we want to be.  That space is” – “is now no longer viable for us.  We’re moving in a new direction.”

And I think it’s about time the party does that, but this is my point.  At the end of the day, there’re two – there’re two things that the party can do, one easy and one very hard.  The easy thing for them to do is to go out and begin the connection to people, to go into neighborhoods that look like the ones we live in and grew up in, that go out there and engage the African-American community specifically.  And I think historically, that link is – is there to be reset.  That’s the easy part.

You know what the part is?  The hard part is actually wanting to do it.

MR. MARTIN:  Um!

MR. STEELE:  Actually wanting to do it.  And for, you know – except for that period where I was chairman of the RNC, there has not been the will to do it.  We funded the effort to a million dollars a year.  We went out.  We created a national, grassroots network that paid dividends for the party in electing Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians from the United States Congress to the state legislatures.  That’s what this whole effort, when you’re engaged in communica- — yeah, you’re going to take – get guys like you who say, “Okay.  Let’s have a real conversation about how you guys look at us and how you deal with our issues.”  You’re going to have to confront that.  You can’t run away from that.  The black community expects you, “if you want my vote,” to engage that way.

MR. MARTIN:  And –

MR. STEELE:  So, we’ll see what happens.

MR. MARTIN:  — and to me – and it’s not simply, “Well, let’s go talk to black folks.”  I –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — keep saying you[’ve] got to listen to black folks.

MR. STEELE:  Listen!

MR. MARTIN:  And – and I said it before, and since Republicans, they still – they’ll say, “Man, why’d you say on television that Republicans are scared of black people?”

I said, “Because it’s very simple.  When” – look, in this campaign –

MR. STEELE:  Well, you know, I got in –

MR. MARTIN:  — Mi- —

MR. STEELE:  — trouble for saying that –

MR. MARTIN:  — oh, I know!

MR. STEELE:  — same thing.  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  Of cour- — and – and – but the bottom line is it’s true!  Republicans –

MR. STEELE:  It’s true!

MR. MARTIN:  — most of y’all scared of black people!  I mean –

MR. STEELE:  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  — look – look what happened in this campaign.  Mitt Romney goes to the NAACP.  He gives a speech.  So, he buses in a couple hundred supporters.  After he gives his spee- – and I’m there.  After he gives his speech, they all leave.

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And then they go – now, it’s in the George Brown Convention Center in Houston.  They go down this lo-o-ong hallway.  The room they had set aside was wa-a-ay down the hallway, around the corner –

MR. STEELE:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — so far away from the rest of the delegates.

My deal was if you wanted to engage, you have your supporters go to the back of the room, and you stand and talk to delegates.

MR. STEELE:  Thank you!

MR. MARTIN:  Mitt Romney, do the same thing.

He gave one interview with a black media outlet the entire campaign –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “Black” – “Black Enterprise.”

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, I understand if you say – Mitt Romney – “I’m not going to get a lot of black folks.”  I mean I get it.  But you gave one interview!  So, you made no effort.

MR. STEELE:  Well – and – and let me tell you what the fallacy of that argument – or, that mindset is.  So, if I sit there and say, “Well, I’m not going to get Roland’s vote, so, therefore, I’m not going to engage Roland,” what I’ve effectively done is not just dismiss Roland, but dismissed everyone who would be looking at that in- — interchange between the two of us.  In –

MR. MARTIN:  Right!

MR. STEELE:  — other words, not just black folks who are behind Roland and in his community, but whites who are looking at how you deal on this issue – because for a lot of, particularly, white women, how you deal on the race relation[s] front is important to them.

MR. MARTIN:  In fact, in 2000, one of the reasons that then governor George W. Bush was able to appeal to suburban, white women is because, with “compassionate conservatism” –

MR. STEELE:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — he wasn’t perceived as being as belligerent as Newt Gingrich was when he was speaker of the House –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — antagonistic to black folks.

MR. STEELE:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  So, white women said, “Okay.”

MR. STEELE:  “Okay.”

MR. MARTIN:  “Acceptable.  Okay, cool.”

MR. STEELE:  Right, right.

MR. MARTIN:  “How you treat other people” –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “I’m good with that.”

MR. STEELE:  Right.  Exactly.  And that’s the key the- — right there:  how you treat other people, because they have – even if it’s an idealized view in their head, they have this idea of – in their head of how a politician, an elected official should engage everyone.  And so when you have the conversation about 47 percent of Americans, when you have the – as we heard this week, you know, talking about, “Well, they just give away gifts,” and all the –

MR. MARTIN:  Older – older guy in Maine said, “Where’d these black people come from?”

MR. STEELE:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  “Oh, my God!  We’ve ne-” – “We don’t even know black people!”

MR. STEELE:  [Chuckles.]  “We don’t know black” –

MR. MARTIN:  But he –

MR. STEELE:  — “people!”

MR. MARTIN:  — played with a – he played with a black guy – played basketball.

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And – but – and – now he’s apologized for it.  But again, tha- — that –

MR. STEELE:  And I know –

MR. MARTIN:  — kind of stuff –

MR. STEELE:  — Charlie.

MR. MARTIN:  — hurts the party.

MR. STEELE:  I know Charlie, and I know where his heart is, but the mouth!  Can we connect the two?  Okay?   [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. STEELE:  Dude – [chuckles] – connect the two.

So – but that’s it, man.  I mean you – I think you – you know, look.  It’s what we talked about this vehicle here.  And I’ve see- — you and I’ve had this battle.  We’ve had this conversation with my party.

Come on this show!

MR. MARTIN: I’ve been trying to get –

MR. STEELE:  You’re talking –

MR. MARTIN:  — Reince Priebus for –

MR. STEELE:  — You’re talking to black America.  You’re talking to all of America right here.  This is – yeah, you’re going to – he’s going to ask some tough questions because they’re legitimate questions.  He’s not going to, you know, ask you questions – you probably haven’t even asked before – right?

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. STEELE:  So – but we don’t engage.

When I did – when I went out and I – you know, I talked about “hip-hop Republicans,” and everybody went crazy:  “Oh, my God!”  Well, I wasn’t talking about, you know, putting on bling and – and all of that crazy – I was talking about engaging where we are.  That’s part of our culture and experience, so let’s get folks who can relate and identify with that.  Let’s talk about the Frank Sinatra side of our community.  Let’s talk about the – the diversity of black folk and understand what that is.

MR. MARTIN:  But also, I think it has to be also issue-driven, and that is –

MR. STEELE:  It is.  That’s key.

MR. MARTIN:  — because when people say, “Oh, reach out,” no.  It needs to be you talk to African-Americans about entrepreneurship.

MR. STEELE:  Yep.

MR. MARTIN:  You talk about education.

MR. STEELE:  Yep.

MR. MARTIN:  You talk about housing.  To me, it was – it was ludicrous for Mitt Romney not to say, “Fifty-three percent of black wealth has been wiped out due to the home foreclosure crisis.  We[’ve] got to fix the home foreclosure problem.”  I – I – to me, that’s – that’s a[n] easy one.

MR. STEELE:  That’s easy.

MR. MARTIN:  And so it’s not just reaching out just to say, “Oh, I want” –

MR. STEELE:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “to hang out,” but there are substantive issues.

MR. STEELE:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  That’s not welfare.  That’s –

MR. STEELE:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — not affirmative action –

MR. STEELE:  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  — because that’s the first thing that Republicans get scared about:  “Oh, no-o-oo!  I’m not” –

MR. STEELE:  “Oh, I’m not gonna do that!”

MR. MARTIN:  — “supporting affirmative action!”

MR. STEELE:  [Chuckles.]  Right, right.

MR. MARTIN:  “Oh, no!”

MR. STEELE:  Even –

MR. MARTIN:  But –

MR. STEELE:  — though – even though we created it.  Art Fletcher – all right?

MR. MARTIN:  — under Richard – President Richard –

MR. STEELE:  Ri- —

MR. MARTIN:  — Nixon.

MR. STEELE:  — Nixon.  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  So – so, yes, Republicans created affirmative action.

But again, though, there are substantive issues that can be talked about.

MR. STEELE:  Right.  And – and I think – I think that’s the key thing, which is why, going forward – and – and I think this is also an important lesson for the black community now to pay attention:  50,000 Hispanics turn 18 years old every month.  Right?  There’s a growing community of Hispanic political, economic –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. STEELE:  — involvement in this country.  How are we going to be positioned in this new landscape where you have both parties now no longer competing over our interests – whether they ignore us or take us for granted.  That’s not even the issue anymore.  It’s – indifference is the worst kind of sin for an individual in terms of – of politics.  So, if – if we are – become indifferent to our own existence politically as others are growing and engaging in respect to their political interests, we’re going to have a problem longer term as a black community because they will assume the mantle of “civil rights.”  They’ll assume the e- — the mantle of “economic empowerment,” and we’re going to be sitting there, waiting for them to send crumbs our way.

And I don’t think that’s a position the black community wants to be in, so I think this – this opportunity now is really important to wake up both parties and – and make them realize, “Look, we are a center of gravity here, and we have the ability to either help you win or make you lose.”  And I think that the more we play that to our advantage, the more our agenda gets addressed.

MR. MARTIN:  Last thing:  Reince Priebus, you run the RNC.

MR. STEELE:  Come on the show.

MR. MARTIN:  Come on the show.

MR. STEELE:  Come on the show.

MR. MARTIN:  It’s – we’ll have a good conversation.

MR. STEELE:  What are you afraid of?

MR. MARTIN:  Come on the show.

MR. STEELE:  ’S real easy.

MR. MARTIN:  Been inviting you for ten months.

MR. STEELE:  I know.  ’S a good man.

MR. MARTIN:  Been tweeting you.

MR. STEELE:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  Come on.  Come hang out –

MR. STEELE:  They may –

MR. MARTIN:  — with a brutha.

MR. STEELE:  — they may even serve you breakfast.  Come on, dude.  Come on.  [Crosstalk.]

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Michael, we appreciate –

MR. STEELE:  My man.

MR. MARTIN:  — it.

MR. STEELE:  You –

MR. MARTIN:  Thanks a bunch.

MR. STEELE:  — got it.

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  • Candy Chatman

    Please help us in this little small town of Fort Pierce, Florida their is a whole lot of abuse of authority in the judicial system & racism please help me.

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