Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, joined Roland Martin and the Tom Joyner Morning Show crew to discuss the GOP’s plans to engage the African –American community.
The Republican Party’s kick-off for their new African-American outreach is set to start in Cleveland, Ohio where Priebus and the rest of the Republican party hope to find African-American leaders and people within the community who they can learn from and begin creating relationships with, which Priebus explained to Roland Martin below:
ROLAND MARTIN : You’re going to be in Ohio tomorrow as the kickoff to this African American outreach. And this report was very damning across the board. And one of the areas it says you guys have got to do a better job talking & relating with black folks.
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, that’s absolutely true. And one of the things that’s glaring as a problem is that we just can’t survive as a party by being a national organization that shows up three months before an election and expects to move voters our direction. You know, the fact of the matter is that we’ve got to be engaged in the communities on a year round basis. And I’m not interested, Roland, in making headlines by just hiring a few people down the hallway and calling that engagement. We want to hire people and get to know people in the communities of which that we want to explain what we’re about and that we want to move voters in. So if we’re trying to engage in Cleveland that means we need to find communities’ leaders in Cleveland that are willing to work with us in Cleveland, to communicate with the voters in Cleveland. And I know that seems pretty simple, but we just haven’t been a party that’s been a year round party on the ground in communities, you know, three years before an election. And that really is a problem and I want to fix it.
However, radio legend Tom Joyner did not believe Priebus was aware of the real issue which has caused a rift between the African=American community and the Republican party, he proclaimed, saying, “Okay, well, one of the problems might be that you tried to suppress the black vote in this last election.”
Priebus responded, saying:
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, you know, I don’t see that. You know, look, I happen to believe, obviously, that protecting the vote is important, and that voter suppression obviously has no place in our world or our society.
TOM JOYNER : But you did that.
REINCE PRIEBUS : But that’s not the case, you know what, I came from the state of Wisconsin. And I got to tell you, we had a state in our history, we’ve got a state where vote fraud I believe is pretty prevalent. We’ve had a police report issued, it’s about 70 pages long, and part of our problem in a state like Wisconsin was that people could show up and vote on election day with no voter ID, not even an electric bill or anything with a name on it. They could raise their right hand, pass the ballot.
SYBIL WILKES: But that’s Wisconsin. That’s Wisconsin.
TOM JOYNER : Yeah.
REINCE PRIEBUS: But I’m just telling you about like in a state like Wisconsin, I’m just telling you that in a state like that, photo ID and making sure that people say who they are really is who they are and that they live in a place that they really live in. And in many places, like Wisconsin, you have vote fraud where people are registering in empty lots. I mean this is not made up stuff. I mean this has happened. Police reports were issued on this subject. And it’s real. And so that’s not true.
TOM JOYNER : Roland, you understand where I’m coming from, right?
ROLAND MARTIN : Yeah, and that’s one of the issues, that’s certainly one of the issues that we talked about, and not just the issue of even voters, but also you said explain our issues. But isn’t this also about listening to what African Americans say are their issues, are their concerns, and saying how you, as a party, could also speak to those issues?
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, listen, that’s the number one issue. Sometimes you got to keep your mouth shut and listen. And that’s what we’re doing in Cleveland tomorrow. And I agree with you, and take your lumps, and you also learn and change.
ROLAND MARTIN : Right.
REINCE PRIEBUS: And be a party that gets to know people and builds genuine, real, authentic relationships. And, you know, I agree with that.
ROLAND MARTIN : I got to ask you this real quick, you obviously had critics within your own party who are African American, J.C. Watts has made some statements, former chairman Michael Steele. Do you plan on sitting down with them? They’ve been in the trenches for a number of years. Michael Steele came on this show several times when he was Chairman. Do you plan on sitting down with them to get their thoughts? Like I said, because they’ve been pushing this issue for a long time.
REINCE PRIEBUS: Yeah, but, you know, it’s a … but we also have a party though, even though that’s true, and number one, yes, of course. You want to build our party, and J.C. and Michael are an important part of our party …
ROLAND MARTIN : So you do plan on …
REINCE PRIEBUS: But this is also something, Roland …
ROLAND MARTIN : One second …
REINCE PRIEBUS: … that has never been done before. I mean hiring a few people down the hallway and saying that this is somehow voter engagement, in my mind, this isn’t true. I think you need hundreds of people across the country that are working with you, and for, and on behalf of the party to engage voters. And so, yeah, that’s the only way you’re going to build the party. Now, look, guys – I’m not looking, we’re not going to carpet the world in three months, I’m not naive. But I do think that we can do, you know, we can get to 10 and 15 and 20 percent if we work hard and have a long term view on what our party needs to do. And so this is all part of it. And I get it. And the criticism in many cases is fair.
SYBIL WILKES: Just a suggestion, sir, but you might want to talk to members of Congress and have them start talking to members of the opposite party and get things going there as well. And that might get people a little bit more open to what you have to say.
REINCE PRIEBUS: Look, I agree. I think every member should fight for a majority of every demographic in the district and they’ll be helping our country, in the long term, obviously helping our party, but it’s about America, not the Republican Party, and I think this is all just one big part of it.