Black Republicans voice concern about GOP’s future

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Watch black Republicans discuss the party’s future

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Sarah Palin’s resignation from her role as governor of Alaska has prompted new questions about the GOP’s leadership and future. While Michael Steele made history by becoming the first black chairman of the Republican National Committee, where do African Americans stand in helping to redefine the party?

TheGrio sat down with a group of black Republicans to discuss their feeling on their political party and its future.

“What does it mean to be a black man that agrees with the Republican party’s agenda, the Republican party’s message?” said’s Brandon Brice. “That is, reducing the size of government, giving people real opportunities to excel from any circumstance or situation.”

According to a report released in May by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Africans Americans make up two percent of the nation’s Republican party, compared to 22 percent of the democratic party. The study also found that during the 2008 election, 95 percent of blacks voted for Barack Obama, while just four percent voted for Republican candidate John McCain.

“For African Americans, at least in the last election cycle, if you happened to be black and you didn’t agree with Barack Obama, you were labeled an Uncle Tom,” said MSNBC Analyst Joe Watkins.

One person who is not afraid to disagree with the Obama administrations politics is RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Steele has been on a recent media blitz criticizing everything from the president’s speech to the NAACP to his new healthcare plan.

“Slow down Mr. President, we can’t afford to get healthcare wrong,” he said.

Since being elected chairman in 2008, Steele has rocked the GOP with his straight talk and unusual methods for promoting his party including his “hip-hop” tactics and, in a recent web video, suggesting he would use “fried chicken” to woo new members.

At a convention in New York commemorating the NAACP’s 100 year anniversary, Steele acknowledged that the party has a long way to go in recruiting more African Americans to the GOP.

“It’s not about trying to get folks to join the GOP, that’s not what it’s about, it’s about making the GOP a relevant option,” he said. “Certainly my visit here today does not represent some miraculous breakthrough in GOP-NAACP relations. But ladies and gentleman, this is the first baby step among many more baby steps that we have to take.”

“I think that it is important for him to look at all different groups and try to bring more groups into the party and new groups that haven’t been into the party before,” said Stephanie Watkins, a 30-year member of the GOP.

Watkins and other panelists agreed that the future of the GOP is dependent on the party’s ability to reach out to African Americans and cater to issues specific to them.

“We need to really listen to what their needs are and make sure that we know how to frame our agenda so it will meet their needs,” she said.

Panelists also agreed that the Republican party is in need of a physical makeover.

“What we need to do on a national and grassroots level definitely is show a different face to the party,” said Tiffany Shorter of “If every time someone who is of African or Latino descent, wants to run for something, they’re not going to run to the Republican party, they’re going to go to the Democratic party where they see more people who look like them.”

Joe Watkins added that the only way to win back the majority from the Democrats is by growing the size of the party.

“We wont be competitive in the 2010 cycle or the 2012 cycle if we don’t generate larger numbers and build our tent.”