My First Failure of 2013: The Black Conference
Since the bruising defeat Republicans like myself received in November, I’ve been searching for ways to innovate our approach to technology, organizing, and reaching new voters.
One of the byproducts to innovation, is failure. Talking about failure is one of the necessary changes in Party culture that we must make if we’re going to succeed. I plan on bragging on both my successes and failures this year as openly as possible.
In my early December post, Republicans Lost in November, Could Fail Now, I said “I cannot overstate how critical this time is. We have to start building, testing, and even failing or it will be too late,” and went on to expand, “Fund–build–fail until we have a winning product; and on multiple fronts.” While I was namely talking about building a technical infrastructure, the same can be applied to voter education and organizing campaigns.
It was true then and remains true now.
In November I quietly started assembling a talented team that would be able to produce a conference geared toward being the largest gathering of free market/conservative African-Americans. We put together proposals, a communications plan, created some buzz and had reporters — liberal reporters (our target audience) — asking for credentials. All this before we even put up a website! I talked to a few Party leaders I go to from time to time for advice and became encouraged by their recognition of the very same need I was seeing.
That being said, all good things don’t always end well. I’m no stranger to internal politics. Information and secrecy is a rich currency in my line of work. As I began kissing the right asses in the community, I too began realizing what I already knew deep down; that there are many groups that claim to speak for conservatives African-Americans, for Blacks, but there are few if any that actually do. Many groups that solicit funds under this banner are basic schemes. They pay for one gentlemen or lady to go around with a title partying at conferences. They do not do any real outreach, they don’t work with other Black groups, they don’t do anything meaningful.
Still, this isn’t my first-rodeo. I made list — checked it twice, sought the counsel of most of these groups and received their blessing. The process was grueling, time consuming, and taxing on the soul.
Then South Carolina Republican National Committeeman, Glenn McCall, in defending Chairman Reince Priebus’ record said Republicans were doing an “outstanding” job in our outreach efforts to minority communities. Totally void of reality. Couple this with former Democratic Congressman turned Republican poster-boy Artur Davis’ equally idiotic comments and you begin to see that only plan anyone intends to implement is no plan at all. McCall then was appointed to a special committee that is tasked with doing the autopsy of the 2012 election and finding new ways to reach minority voters. This is failing, in a God-awful way.
Right now, I cannot tell you that the Republican Party cares about reaching out to new Black voters. Should the evidence ever arise, I would be amongst it’s first champions.
I gave the staff a break to deal with normal holiday goings. Sitting the issue down, my life was suddenly less stressful. At the end of carefully weighing whether I would indefinitely postpone the conference or not, the relief from unneeded stress was the greatest motivating factor. I had lobbied the right personalities and egos, I had put together a killer staff, buzz was building amongst the press, and the sponsorship money needed to pull off something like this was there; but still I needed a peace of mind. The Black Conference wasn’t worth throwing if I had to drag my Party kicking and screaming to it while it cut into my business, throwing my annual Blog Bash event, and other startup projects I’m trying to get off the ground.
I’ve worked for years as a professional — trying very hard not to become that “token Black Republican” or another news talking head. I have actual skill-sets that are valuable. Throwing this conference was my contribution the Party, the conservative movement, to the Black community — something that risked boxing me into a talking head or fundraising gimmick.
It was a sacrifice I was willing to make. If I succeeded in fulfilling our team’s vision, we’d make history and the country would be better for it. Blacks don’t deserve to be boxed into one Party, one political philosophy. Their votes deserve to be viciously fought over unlike the current fear-mongering campaign that goes on from one Party and the ignoring from the other.
As an aside, there were two things that caused me the most stress was making the decision (amongst a divided staff) to move the date from February to April, and trying to get young Black conservatives to call me back–after they expressed an interest in participating in the organizing. These folks are trying to build themselves as national pundits while unprofessionally blowing off the wrong people. It echoed a problem that knows no color. We have the wrong people and we need to do a better job of creating and recruiting better ones.
I hope this failure will teach and warn others. There’s someone out there who can do this better than me. This is the approach all conservative organizers and Republicans should take as we seek to find our bearings. Failure is both necessary and productive. And if you cannot be good, if you cannot win, be productive.
We have a problem and it troubles me to write, we have no solution. I hope this is solved one day, God-willing soon. I hope I can be a part of the solution. However, right now… this Black is sitting this issue out.
Failure one and counting… but don’t count me out of any fights.