Eric Frazier

Fixing the GOP’s urban outreach

You might not have guessed it from all the hard-right legislation they’ve cranked out in the past couple of years, but leaders of the North Carolina Republican Party want to open a dialogue with Democratic and independent voters.

Specifically, Democratic and independent voters in the fast-growing Charlotte and Raleigh metro areas.

The GOP seeks “an open, frank and ongoing discussion with all North Carolinians – regardless of party or ideology – about the values and common ground we share,” party Chairman Claude Pope said via press release.

Before you do a spit-take, let’s say “Project Listen” – that’s what they’re actually calling it – is more than just smart PR for the launch of their 2016 campaign.

Of course, to reach that point, you’ll have to ignore the effort’s front-and-center positioning of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who needs to make nice with the left-leaning urbanites who turn out in greater numbers in presidential election years.

Either way, you have to take Pope at his word when he says that while the GOP is willing to listen to all you Prius-primping, latte-sipping urban sophisticates, the party remains “unwavering in our core values and beliefs.”

So what’s left? If we’re not talking about rolling back tax cuts or expanding Medicaid or restoring unemployment benefits or declaring a truce in the gay marriage wars, what can the party offer to show it’s serious?

Not much, it seems. Nevertheless, I’ve got some fun ideas for the Charlotte outreach:

▪ Have a delegation of top GOP leaders do a Saturday night NoDa bar crawl. Take in a concert. Bonus points if you bring Republican kingmaker Art Pope back with a new tattoo and he has no idea how it got there.

▪ Next CIAA tournament, sponsor a party at the Ritz-Carlton and cover the surcharge for all tournament ticket-holders. Suggested dance floor chant: “Who’s down with the GOP? Yeah, you know me!”

▪ Grab dinner at the EpiCentre uptown. As you walk around, make sure you’re not speaking audibly when you ask yourself where all these kids’ parents are.

▪ Next stop, meet outspoken Mecklenburg commissioner Vilma Leake. Steel yourself for a massive lecture about respecting the rights of minorities and the poor. Deflect by complimenting her corsage.

▪ Take a ride on our light rail system, the Lynx Blue Line. Feel that cool urban vibe wash over you. Wait, that’s the breath of the restaurant server who fell asleep next to you.

▪ Stop at the Firebird statue outside the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and pose for cheesy pictures. But instead of actually saying “Cheese!” before the snap, get Burr to say “Negotiating treaties with foreign governments is the purview of the executive branch!”

▪ And finally, get Sen. Bob Rucho to show you Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Ask him if he can explain why his side still hasn’t stopped fighting the city for control of it.

Good luck getting a clear answer on that one.

Eric: 704-358-5145; efrazier@charlotteobserver.com

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