HOUSTON — The mostly white crowd that turns up for weekly meetings at King Street Patriots is becoming a problem for tea party leaders.
The “monochrome composition” of the gatherings must change, they say, if conservatives want to keep this Texas county out of Democratic hands in 2012.
“The tea parties recognize the urgency. They want their monochrome composition to be addressed,” said Apostle Claver, a black Republican whose Raging Elephants Group works to expand the GOP’s conservative base. “In order for conservatives to win elections in the future, we are going to have to aggressively, unrelentingly, without ceasing bring diversity into the base. It is a crisis.”
Claver frequently speaks to groups such as King Street Patriots, urging them to consider that outside the warehouse that serves as the group’s headquarters, Houston and its surrounding suburbs in Harris County are becoming increasingly diverse — and liberal.
Not only did President Barack Obama become the first Democrat in four decades to win the county in 2008, but his recent visit to El Paso has led some to believe he is trying to expand his reach in conservative Texas ahead of 2012.
To fight back, a group of mostly black conservatives is trying to recruit ethnic minorities to the tea parties. The national initiative, called the Boots of Liberty Taskforce, borrows community-organizing tactics from the left.
“We’re training conservative volunteers to come into the community and basically become organizers. We’re using the ACORN community model, but we have modified it for conservatives,” said Anita MonCrief, who worked for ACORN before defecting to the tea parties two years ago and devising the outreach plan.
Starting next month, MonCrief plans to have entrepreneurs teach minority groups in Houston how to start their own small businesses. She has asked a Hispanic activist, Maria Espinoza, to discuss how illegal immigration contributes to crime and takes jobs away from legal residents.
And as trust builds, MonCrief and Christine Engelbrecht, founder of King Street Patriots, plan to send tea party members into minority neighborhoods to register voters and promote tea party ideals of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise.
“Capitalism is the pathway out of poverty, and that’s what we have to show these communities,” said MonCrief, who grew up in a poor black neighborhood. “I think that after six months in the black community, we can show that the tea party is more effective than the 40 years of social programs and constant victimhood that they have right now.”