Even before Democrats won the presidential election nearly three years ago, the Republican Party conceded that it needed to be more inclusive of people of color—the voters who essentially delivered President Barack Obama to the White House.
According toBuzzFeed, before the 2012 presidential election, GOPers spent $14,000 on a website that would highlight the achievements of Black people in the Republican Party. But leaders reportedly pulled the plug on the project at the last minute after leaders changed their minds.
According to tax documents obtained by the BuzzFeed News, the RNC spent $14,000 on production, but the site never launched. Crystal Wright, the political strategist who created the campaign, said she was told that the RNC cooled on the idea, which had been in the works since late 2011. RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer, in a meeting with Mike Vallante, chief of staff to RNC co-chair Sharon Day, and then-coalitions director Tom Kise, threw cold water on the website idea, according to Wright.
“I was told by the co-chair’s office the leadership at the RNC said it didn’t want to launch a black outreach website without activities to support it,” Wright said in an email to BuzzFeed News. “In August of 2012, the site was basically finished. I worked with the co-chair’s office to draft a memo of several initiatives to easily roll out but the RNC said it didn’t have money to fund it.”
Reached by NewsOne, an RNC spokesman declined to comment further on the issue, referring this writer instead to Spicer’s comments to BuzzFeed:
“You can quote me on this: I think it’s embarrassing that you’re writing this story,” said Spicer, who added that the GOP’s decision was a small-scale call about how to organize its digital content: The party built a newly integrated site with content targeted toward black voters and other constituency groups, rather than a splintered network of sites.
The spokesman also referred NewsOne to the GOP’s Black Republican Activists webpage, which highlights the works of Black history makers and a message from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
However, the party remains challenged in its ability to attract Black voters, a point that it even conceded in its Growth and Opportunity Project report released in the wake of the 2012 presidential election. “”We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters,” said the report, as quoted by ABC News.
Meanwhile, at least one potential hopeful for the 2016 presidential election, Sen. Rand Paul (R, Kentucky), has made sporadic efforts to court the Black vote via outreach on issues such as criminal justice reform (an issue that even Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas) has taken on in recent weeks).
As for the doomed Black outreach web site, in an effort to use stories to win over prospective party members, the RNC reportedly recorded video testimonials in 2011, Buzzfeed writes, and raw footage still appears on Vimeo. However, some GOP staffers worried that the outreach site would be “little more than window dressing” and others thought asking Black people to vote against President Obama was a non-starter. The project lost steam by the summer of 2012.
Michael Tyler, director of African-American Media & Southern Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee, tells NewsOne that the decision to pull the plug on the project was unfortunate. He added, however, that it is unlikely that a website would be able to help the party overcome problems with voters of color, including on issues of voting rights and opposition to livable wage legislation.
“While the RNC’s decision is unfortunate, the reality is no website will enable Republicans to do outreach while they continue to obstruct voting rights, oppose livable wage legislation, and refuse to prioritize the issues facing Black families on a daily basis,” Tyler wrote in a follow-up email. “Instead of putting a new face on the same old policies that help those at the very top, Democrats welcome Republicans to join in the fight for working and middle-class families.”