SIMMONS: J.C. Watts gives Insight to fading face of GOP

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ANALYSIS/OPINION

The Republican Party “needs to take a step back and a deep breath,” says J.C. Watts, a former House leader. “Doing this for 20 years, sometimes, honestly, I sometimes felt like a voice in the wilderness when trying to get more ethnic minorities and other people of color.”

A black Christian who grew up in rural Oklahoma, a state whose American Indian population is second only to California’s, Mr. Watts, chairman of J.C. Watts Cos., is smart to try to marshal more voices like his in the hopes of getting the party to listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it.

“We’ve been in denial for so long we think we don’t have a problem,” he told me Wednesday.

Mr. Watts, 55, also has an excellent talking point for fiscal conservatives of all stripes, including libertarians, on taxes versus spending.

“We don’t need more taxes,” he said. “We need more taxpayers.”

A refreshing voice and insightful vision, Mr. Watts is moving forward as messages from members of the Republican Party continue to sound and look like drones — or, as a favorite Democrat of mine said, “members of the Grand Old Party of Old White Men.”

In other words, diversity became a dirty word during the culture wars, and the GOP can’t see a way forward.

While no longer a leader of the U.S. House or a championship quarterback, Mr. Watts is giving it the old college try, knowing that no matter how great the arm of a quarterback is, a winning team still has to have a solid and effective ground game.

His option play: Insight, a 501(c)(4) organization intended to help Republicans recruit, develop and implement a better ground game that focuses on diversity, inclusion and leadership.

“That is where the rubber hits the road,” said Mr. Watts, a native of Eufaula, Okla. “Insight will be an organization to help connect the different dots of policy to different communities.”

At forums and in various venues, Insight will delve into policies such as health care disparities, small business, education reform, immigration reform and job creation — issues as important to black Americans in particular as they are to Americans in general.

He used immigration reform, which Congress is expected to take a long, hard look at this session, as one example.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican whose spotlight is shining toward a 2016 presidential run, should not necessarily toe a taut party line on immigration reform but be encouraged “to do your own thing on immigration,” he said.

Although it’s obvious that black Republicans, unlike their Democratic counterparts, stray from GOP talking points from time to time, intraparty critics seem to be all over the place when it comes to answering the key question of where, outside of the tea party and it’s no-more-taxes stance, is there consensus within the Republican Party.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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