The President says he’s willing let the country go over the fiscal cliff, but the Republican Party seems ready to go over the electoral cliff if they don’t broaden their appeal beyond the Tea Party, the boardroom and the country club.
It’s a lot better for us to have both parties fighting for our votes. Now is the time for some diversity and change in attitude in the Republican Party — so says former Republican congressman J.C. Watts. He joins me now to talk about what his party needs to do to be more inclusive and how African-Americans can benefit from the GOP really engaging with the black community.
MR. MARTIN: Hello, and welcome to “Washington Watch.”
The President says he’s willing let the country go over the fiscal cliff, if he has to. We’ll talk about that later in the roundtable, but first, the Republican Party seems ready to go over the electoral cliff if they don’t broaden their appeal beyond the Tea Party, the boardroom and the country club.
It’s a lot better for us to have both parties fighting for our votes. Now is the time for some diversity and change in attitude in the Republican Party – so says former Republican congressman J.C. Watts. He joins me now to talk about what his party needs to do to be more inclusive and how African-Americans can benefit from the GOP really engaging with the black community.
J.C., welcome to the show, man.
MR. J.C. WATTS: Thank you, sir. Thanks for having me.
MR. MARTIN: Let’s get right into it.
This whole thing started because you had people who were in the party who reach out to you, begin to email you and say, “Hey, you should consider running for GOP chairman.”
MR. WATTS: And that basically what – is the situation that occurred. You know, after you lose a big game – a Super Bowl, a conference championship, a big election – everybody starts to point fingers and say, “Roland should’ve done this,” “J.C. should’ve done that.” And then, Roland, I’m pointing fingers, but I’ve been pointing this finger for about the last 20 years –
MR. MARTIN: When you –
MR. WATTS: — and –
MR. MARTIN: — were the House Republican Conference as chairman. You served in Congress. You’ve been saying, “Look, we have got to be in this game, or this day is going to come.”
MR. WATTS: Exactly, and we had our warts exposed on November 6th. And I’ve not said that you need a black face in that chair, a white face, a brown, a yellow a female in that chair. I said whoever sits in that chair at the RNC – they have a responsibility to establish relationships – deeper relationships with nontraditional constituencies. And we’ve not done that in the Republican Party, and as a matter of fact, we made, I think, some veiled attempts to do that over the last 22 years that I’ve been a Republican; but, Martin, I can make a very strong argument we’ve gotten worse in the last ten years. And if –
MR. MARTIN: Oh, I agree.
MR. WATTS: — we continue on this path, we will die, because in business and in politics, it’s no different. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
MR. MARTIN: I made the point here – Republicans across the country, Rush Limbaugh, all these folks got upset, and I said Republicans cannot be scared of black folks.
So, here’s what they say. “Oh, well, Roland” – they say, “we have J.C. Watts. We have Congressman Tim Scott.”
MR. WATTS: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: I said, “No. I’m talking about you can’t be scared of talking to black folks in neighborhoods” – and not just talking to them, but listening to them and say[ing], “What are your concerns? What are your desires? And how can we find common ground on those issues where what we are advocating in terms of policies can appeal to you?”
MR. WATTS: If you don’t have a relationship – I don’t care if it’s in Iraq, if it’s trying to grow your church, trying to grow your business, trying to grow your political party – it all starts with saying, “Roland, tell me a little bit about yourself. What are your interests?”
MR. MARTIN: What would you tell Republicans, “These are the kinds of issues you should be engaging African-Americans in, that might get their attention and say, ‘Hey, I might want to consider that perspective’”?
MR. WATTS: You know, African-American business owners, small business owners – they need access and relationships just like any other business. So, I fought for those small business owners to have procurement opportunities. You know, black families want the same thing as anybody else. They want their kids to get [a] good education, go to schools that are safe, that teach them how to read and write and do the arithmetic. And sometimes, I would submit to you, they would even say, “I don’t care if it’s a private, faith-based school.”
MR. MARTIN: Will you run, or when – have you set a decision – a deadline as to when you will decide whether you will seek the chairmanship?
MR. WATTS: I’m not necessarily interested in running for the RNC chairmanship, but I am interested in saying, “You’re not going to get rid of me until I see the type of changes that I think all Republicans and every Republican – not just J.C. Watts – should be concerned about what happened in the first Tuesday of November in 2008, the first Tuesday of November 2012. We got our heads handed to us. We can’t continue to do the same old thing the same old way. If we do, we will get the same old result.
MR. MARTIN: Sir, we appreciate it.
MR. WATTS: Thank you, man.
MR. MARTIN: We’ll certainly see what happens in – [crosstalk].
MR. WATTS: Let me – let me – hear this. [Unintelligible.]
MR. MARTIN: Ain’t gonna happen. Ain’t gonna happen.
MR. WATTS: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: Lettin’ y’all know. Right now. Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M.
MR. WATTS: [Laughs.]
MR. MARTIN: He was a star quarterback at Oklahoma, but Johnny Football is going to defeat Oklahoma, and he will be crying tears, saying, “Man! That kid’s bad!”