The face and the base of the Republican Party is changing with the times – in a good way. That’s because we are appealing to an even broader cross-section of American voters who might have considered listening and learning more about the GOP for the first time because of the bold leadership of former President Trump. And some people are giving the GOP a second look because of many of the proposed and enacted policies last cycle with Republican leaders in Congress.
Whatever the reason people are coming into the fold of the GOP, we are ready to meet them where they are, listen to why they join the party, and keep them engaged. A great example is in the state of Indiana. Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis to be an expert judge for the Indiana Republican Party Diversity Leadership Series Program.
Fifteen driven leaders from all over the state have been participating in this program, which is designed to train the next generation of diverse Republican leaders in Indiana. What was most impressive was the fact that it is a fully funded program with a full-time Director of Diversity and Engagement named Whitley Yates. Whitley was a member of the Republican National Committee’s Rising Stars Program a few years ago, and today she is a rising star in her home state.
Back in 2018 when the new Indiana State Chairman, Kyle Hupfer, took office he focused on the issue of growing the party and having meaningful engagement efforts to earn the trust and vote of minorities. The following year he hired Whitley and just one year later their inaugural program was up and running. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel fully supported this effort because it was aligned with her national efforts to grow and expand our party in a substantive way, year-round. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced a $2 million investment to reopen RNC Black Community Centers across the country in target states like North Carolina. The centers are opening in the coming months, and they will truly be a resource for the community — not just during the Presidential election year but this year as well. Having an intentional and sustained presences with resources, staff and information is groundbreaking for an off-season political year.
The inaugural cohort’s capstone project required each team to select a local Republican-led bill or initiative and communicate how it positively impacts communities of color. They presented a robust data-filled presentation that could be shared with minority audiences. The presentations ranged from programs about access to a Pre-K program for children, a new police reform law that bans the chokehold, a youth-focused workforce development program for the children of lower-income residents and a program designed to help reduce adult recidivism.
I learned so much about what was being done in the state. They have a tremendous opportunity to spread the word in their communities about how Republican leadership has had a positive impact on the lives of so many of Indiana’s Black residents. The good thing is Indiana is not alone. North Carolina’s Republican Party has been working to engage minority voters under the leadership of Chairman Michael Whatley. His entire team is serious about showing up and being consistently present in communities of color –especially the Black community with their engagement effort.
The cohort in Indiana was passionate about their projects, not because they were being paid or getting an award. It was clear they truly cared about finding ways to better engage a broader audience, because they truly want the best for their communities. They believe, as I do, that conservative values, policies, and programs can offer a more empowering forecast for a safer and prosperous future for all Americans.
My takeaway is while there is always more work to be done, more conversations to be had and more opportunities to show up and be present, the Republican party is on the right track, and I am proud to see the national and local efforts growing and expanding every day. It will take a concerted effort to listen before speaking and to find political common ground. Democrats are not doing this type of engagement because they have grown too comfortable, simply expecting to get most of the Black vote without having to work hard for it. Democrats have long taken Black Americans for granted, and it is time to hold them accountable while being open to hearing different perspectives to get better results. The Republican Party is the party of freedom and opportunity, and we will continue to share our inclusive and empowering polices, engage, grow for the better, and win elections by putting all Americans first.
Paris Dennard is the National Spokesperson and Director of Black Media Affairs for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Follow him on Twitter: @PARISDENNARD.