“Sitting around waiting for minorities to come to us ain’t cut’n it, we must go to them! [sic]” wrote Derrick Wilburn on his Facebook page about his recruitment efforts to get Republican lawmakers to man a table with him at Denver’s Cinco de Mayo celebration in Civic Center Park.
“As everyone knows, my mission & what I’m all about is getting conservatives to move past *talking* about taking steps for minority-inclusion & start actually *doing* it!” he wrote.
Wilburn, the founder of Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, former head of American Conservatives of Color, and now vice-chair of the state’s GOP, has been pushing his party and fellow conservatives to start showing up at cultural events such as Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth.
Political strategists like Wilburn know the GOP needs to recruit minorities to win elections. But to do so, the Republican Party has to deal with its history of using the Southern Strategy to harness the political angst of disgruntled whites.
Research from the Pew Foundation suggests 89 percent of blacks and 62 percent of Latinos are Democrats. Between the GOP’s history of white-oriented politics and these statistics, Republicans are hardly guaranteed an open-armed embrace at black and Latino cultural events.
But Wilburn wants to change that. And he is. “We have to be willing to step outside of a comfort zone & spend some time in other people’s worlds,” he wrote.
This year, for Cinco de Mayo, he recruited a band of white, big-name conservative lawmakers to commit to tabling: Gordon Klingenschmitt, Tim and Patrick Neville, Owen Hill, Laura Woods and Mike Coffman, among others.
Wilburn instructed his cadre: The goal isn’t to win immediate votes. The goal is to “plant seeds.”
In Wilburn’s long game, children are one of the GOP’s primary targets.
“We set up a few simple games – toss the bean bag in the hole (or whatever) – and they flock to it like bees to sugar. They’re laughing, smiling, having fun…we’re doing the same. So what impression of conservatives are these young children walking away with subconsciencely? [sic] Man that was fun!’ ‘Those are the people who gave me some candy!’ Etc.”
While the kids are playing games, GOP pols target the parents, asking them about their thoughts on school choice, among other issues. “Would you prefer to be able to choose to send your children to a superior school, or is it better that the government dictate where you kids go [sic]?”
Wilburn works steadily at urging GOP members to help plant the seeds of discontent with big government.
Other Wilburn-approved strategies to snag skeptical Cinco de Mayo partiers included complementing people’s fashion, talking about hotrods with car buffs and avoiding negative rhetoric against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and abortion, he writes.
Oh, and harnessing the power of cute pets.
Rep. Kathleen Conti used her fluffy, white dog to lure potential recruits to the Party.
“Rep. Conti and her doggie. SURROUNDED by smiling little Hispanic children all afternoon. How many Republicans around the USA can make a claim like that?” Wilbur wrote.
“There were 600’ish booths at this year’s Cinco. For the past handful of years its [sic] just been Derrick & his merry band out here fight’n the good fight all by our lonesome. This year there were 5,” Wilburn wrote, speaking about himself in the third-person.
“Its [sic] a unique, once-a-year opportunity and everytime [sic] we show up guess what…?….we [sic] chip another brick out of that wall.”
Purple Sherbet Photography, Creative Commons, Flickr.