Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

GOP must not ignore J.C. Watts

By Roland Martin, CNN Contributor
updated 7:37 AM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Rep. J.C. Watts might run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee
  • Some establishment Republicans are blasting him, says Roland Martin
  • But if the GOP wants any kind of future, it should listen to Watts very closely, Martin says
  • It's time for the GOP to "sit back, shut up and take notes," says Martin

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- A number of establishment Republicans are privately blasting former Rep. J.C. Watts and his comments about considering a run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. They call him arrogant for even suggesting he could do the job, and some have said the talk is more about his ego than a vision for the party.

In fact, he has been likened to former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Both are conservative, but clearly that comparison is based on their skin color and not anything else.

The Republican Party establishment should tread carefully here, because even if members choose not to vote for Watts -- if he decides to even seek the job -- it is his skin color and perspective that is central to the GOP having any sort of presidential future.

Roland Martin
Roland Martin

We might as well not play footsie: The Republican Party is a group largely composed of and targeting white Americans. Yes, there are minority Republicans. But considering how President Obama was able to destroy Mitt Romney at the ballot box last month with a racial coalition that rolled up massive support among blacks, Hispanics and Asians, the GOP has a problem.

The day has passed when the GOP can win the presidency by focusing on white Americans. Folks, this is simple math. With the nation moving toward becoming a majority-minority country, the Republican Party cannot afford to continue to ignore, alienate and, frankly, tick off minority voters.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



What J.C. Watts is trying to do is to get party leaders to understand that as a former college football legend at the University of Oklahoma, he knows when a failed game plan needs to be thrown out. In football, if you lose, you often get rid of the coach and find someone who can recruit better players to put you on the path to winning.

Opinion: GOP, break Grover Norquist's grip on you

Does that mean the GOP should throw out RNC chairman Reince Priebus? Not necessarily. But it is abundantly clear that the modern-day GOP had better find a new game plan or it is going to be on the outside of the Oval Office for quite some time.

J.C. Watts is no stranger to this discussion. When he served in the leadership of the House Republican Conference as a member of Congress from Oklahoma, he often tried to quietly address these issues within the party, and his comments often fell on deaf ears.

Now Watts can look to his Republican buddies and say, "Didn't I tell you? Now are y'all ready to pay attention?"

But as long as guys like Mitt Romney surrogate John Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, continue to assert that people voted for President Obama because of handouts, the GOP will resemble that old, drunk uncle you hate to invite over for family dinners because he manages to make everyone look foolish.

The Republican Party's problem isn't that its members have to better explain its policies to minorities. No. It's that they all need to shut up and listen.

Yes, listen. Because every time top GOP officials open their mouths, all they seem to do is insult the very people they need to vote for them.

This is about relationships. It is about having a dialogue. It's about listening to what Americans desire and seeing where there is agreement, whether it's education, the environment, entrepreneurship, sentencing reform, immigration or a host of other issues. Too often, the GOP is afraid to talk to minorities, especially black folks, and that results in turning them off in a huge way.

And just saying, "Look! We have elected some minorities to office" ain't gonna cut it. How did having a Hispanic governor in New Mexico and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio help Mitt Romney in the last election?

J.C. Watts understands that being able to commuincate with black, Hispanic and Asian business owners about issues other than taxes is going to make a difference. Sorry, GOP, just touting smaller government and fewer taxes won't cut it. The discussion must be broad and touch upon the issues that affect these voters every day.

And the only way a Priebus can even understand how to talk to and work with black folks is having a relationship with the likes of J.C. Watts, Colin Powell, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, former Citigroup and Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons and so many others and say, "Please, take the time to educate me on the issues and concerns resonating among black folks, and how our agenda can appeal to them."

Then you sit back, shut up and take notes.

Opinion: The GOP is tone-deaf on fiscal cliff

The same needs to happen with other constituencies that the Democratic Party has dominated. This is the only effective way the GOP will come to grips with the enormous problems it has in these communities. The party first must know why there is so much resistance, and then go about methodically addressing the issues.

And that will mean having an extraordinary outreach program that must be funded and staffed. The fact is, the massive outreach effort that is needed may not pay off for the GOP in 2016. But laying the groundwork today could mean seeing the fruits of that labor then and beyond.

But I can guarantee the GOP one thing: If it ignores minority constituents and dismisses them, it will get destroyed at the ballot box. The only way for fruits to grow is if the seed is planted, cultivated and tended to. The GOP has been unwilling to get its hands dirty and do the hard work when it comes to minority voters. Keep it up and it will starve to death. I guarantee.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 8:12 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT