Steele: GOP offers African-Americans 'a way forward'

The NAACP and Republican Party should set aside past differences and form a new partnership, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele will tell the civil rights organization in a speech this morning.

Steele, the first African-American leader of the GOP, vowed to throw out traditional modes of outreach and communication with the black community -- what he called "the complete Republican's guide to speaking to African-Americans" -- in favor of offering "a way forward" for the community through the Republican Party.

"We are the post-civil rights generation of African-Americans and for us the battle for civil rights in the latter half of the twentieth century has become a struggle for economic and educational opportunity at the dawning of this century," Steele will tell the NAACP's 100th annual convention in New York City Tuesday morning.

"My purpose for coming here today, is simply to tell you face to face, that you are not alone in that struggle," Steele will say. "The Republican Party, which has shared an inextricable link to the African-American community, has a way forward."

The speech notes a conscious break with usual Republican talking points when it comes to the African-American community -- a base traditionally considered reliably Democratic. Steele mocks a "cut and paste" mentality in previous speeches, gently mocking refrains about the "party of Lincoln" and the Civil Rights Act having been passed by a Republican Congress.

"As Chairman of the [RNC], I recognize the efforts it took to get a seat at the lunch counter, but I also know what it will take for this and future generations to own the diner," the GOP leader will assert, referencing the historic civil rights sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. "So, I have come here today not only to bring greetings, but also to renew our relationship with the NAACP and the African-American community."

Still, Steele will acknowledge that his speech constitutes no "major breakthrough," but instead are "baby steps" in a series of many more to come -- a move which he urged the NAACP to mimic.