Where Did GOP Blacks Go?

Charles D. Ellison | 3/15/2012, 2:20 p.m.

It's a question that comes up every time you hit the home page of the Republican National Committee's website: Where are all the Black Republicans?

Only a year after celebrating the last days of its first African-American chair, the RNC is fairly light on Black faces these days. What was once, especially during the '90s, a fairly aggressive photo-op promotional strategy strung together by a small network of die-hard Black political consultants, former elected officials and partisans, is all but dead. While it did little in the way of yielding any results comparable to Democratic counterparts, there was a sense -- leading up to the election of Michael Steele as party chair -- that some progress had been made in mending the often bitter relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party.

Now, as a bloody Republican primary carries on, the GOP appears smitten with the Latino vote. Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are bending over backwards, and breaking the bank, to connect with Latinos -- looking for every conceivable angle to attract skeptical Brown voters turned off by a wave of anti-immigration sentiments. And the RNC happily trotted out a Director of Latino Outreach in January, eagerly announcing the move in a gritty effort to snatch Hispanic voters away from Democrats in what observers expect to be a grueling November election.

"The RNC will place staff on the ground across the country to coordinate the GOP's Hispanic effort as part of a program to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president," said RNC Chair Reince Preibus when introducing Betinna Inclan as the point person for Republican Latino strategy. "Latinos play an integral role in our communities, and the Republican Party believes it is essential to involve Latinos at every level of our Party's efforts in 2012."

Meanwhile, the move angered a number of Black Republicans who were already feeling left out in the cold following the abrupt downfall and forced removal of Steele in 2011. Many continue to express disgust at the GOP love fest for Latinos, some out of concern that they have no other political home to turn to.

"You have no Blacks on staff at the Republican National Committee -- or any of its other committees -- and there are no Blacks on staff of any of the presidential campaigns," snorts longtime Black Republican strategist and marketing expert Raynard Jackson. "But maybe after a few more electoral loses you will awaken to the most loyal customer you have ever had."

Most politically active and prominent Black Republicans -- and there are only a few compared to Black Democrats -- are not as vocal about their displeasure with the GOP's intense focus on the Latino vote. Most are quiet, some out of fear they might anger RNC bosses who are already stressed trying to keep a fractured party intact. But many are seething over what they view as a combination of betrayal and intrusion, a knife in the back from a Republican Party that was theirs from its Abraham Lincoln beginnings.