If the GOP Wants to Diversify, It Might Want to Start With Its Platform

Rev. Al Sharpton, president, National Action Network, speaks during an announcement of African-American clergy support for th
Rev. Al Sharpton, president, National Action Network, speaks during an announcement of African-American clergy support for the civil marriage of gay and lesbian couples during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. The ministers urged Maryland residents to vote for Question 6 on the November ballot. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

It's difficult for some to process the fact that my parents were Republicans. But they were, as was our Pastor; that is, until the mid-'60s. As it became abundantly clear that Republicans were going to stand on the wrong side of civil rights, on the wrong side of progress and on the wrong side of history, it became obvious to my parents and our Pastor that they would know longer stand with them. And so it went for many African Americans, and progressive Whites. The Republican Party quickly transformed and the Party of old was very different from the Party of present.

Today, that concept can be multiplied tenfold. There's a reason why Blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays, immigrants and other groups overwhelmingly voted with the Democrats during the last election -- mainly that we vote with those who fight for greater equality. So if Reince Priebus, National Republican Party Chairman, and the rest of his comrades think that we can 'bought' for any amount of money, it's time we set the record straight.

As of late, Priebus has been touting the GOP's new 'Growth and Opportunity Project Plan,' which assesses their failures in the 2012 election and ways in which they can reach us minorities. Telling CBS's Bob Schieffer that the Party would be announcing a $10 million initiative this year, Priebus said the money would be used to send hundreds of paid individuals to venture into communities of color across the country and talk about the Republican Party and its brand. I'm glad that Priebus and Republicans recognize and acknowledge that they have a severe problem attracting minorities to their Party. But unfortunately, they fail to realize that all the money in the world can't solve their problems unless they learn to change their policies.

Leading up to the great election of 2012, we witnessed countless efforts to disenfranchise the votes of Blacks, Latinos, the elderly and more that were spearheaded primarily by Republicans. Because they tried so hard to stop us from voting, we showed up in historic numbers yet again and let our voices be heard. Clearly, they received the message. But tragically, they have yet to alter their behavior. Until they stop enacting roadblocks to voting, until they stop challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act itself and until they realize that driving voters to the polls enhances our democracy and levels the playing field, they will not win any new supporters.

And let's not pretend that the GOP's diversity problem ends with voter equality. When the bulk of their platform and policies continue to reward the rich and punish hardworking Americans, who will side with that? When Republicans want to give tax breaks to the wealthy and cut vital programs like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, food stamps for the struggling and more, who wants to align themselves with that sort of thinking? When GOP leaders attack teachers, public workers and workers altogether, why would anyone jump to their Party? When the Republican mantra includes cuts to education, environmental safety, jobs, healthcare, police, emergency services and virtually all the things that make this nation great, how can we ever agree with that?

Last week, Priebus took his 'minority outreach' plans on the road and came to my hometown of Brooklyn. As he tried to convince the audience that his Party was going to do more to include minorities, Priebus never once indicated that their policies might shift. So there's only two things to deduct from all of this: either he and the Republican Party are trying to appear that they are reaching out to people of color in an effort to win moderate Whites, or they really think that we are naïve enough to move to a Party that does not even remotely address our concerns or fight for our interests. Either way, we should be insulted. And they should be embarrassed.

After the massive economic collapse of 2008, a record number of voters participated in the election because they understood how serious the stakes were. In 2012, when Romney's '47 percent video' displayed his disdain for half the country, and many attempted to further disenfranchise voters, we came out in full force. No longer denying our ability to elect candidates and show up to the polls, the Republican Party thinks it can win us over by just acknowledging that we exist. I'm glad they finally realize that they have a diversity problem, but until their fundamental platform changes, they'll only see that problem grow.