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The Word From The RNC Floor


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, the president of Gambia has held power there for nearly 20 years. In that time, he's been criticized for being erratic and corrupt, but now critics say he's become a killer. He's announced he's going to summarily execute every prisoner on death row there in a matter of weeks. We'll try to find out more about him and what this is about from an exiled journalist who knows him and the country well. That's later in the program.

But, first, we are going to head back to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Our producer, Emily Ochsenschlager, has been there for us all this week setting up the interviews you've been hearing and even grabbing participants on the fly. She was also able to catch up with some delegates and attendees on the convention floor and we wanted to bring you two of those voices.

HOSSEIN KHORRAM: My name is Hossein Khorram. I'm a Washington state delegate. We're here to nominate Governor Romney to be the next president of the United States and vice president, also, to be his V.P.

TRACEY WINBUSH: I'm Tracey Winbush and I'm from Youngstown, Ohio, and I came to see how the process works. It is a process that's been around for a very long time and, as an African-American Republican, I wanted to see how it actually works, the mechanics of it.

MARTIN: We asked Hossein Khorram and Tracey Winbush what gets them excited about the Romney-Ryan ticket and what their concerns are for this election and here's what they had to say about that.

KHORRAM: I think the time has come to put a team who knows how to make a terrible economic situation better and nobody can do that better than Romney-Ryan team here. I'm a small businessman. My business is really damaged. Also, I'm an immigrant. In the immigrant community, the unemployment rate is about 15 percent, so combination of all these three factors has been inspiring and I just can't wait. Coming up this November, we will pick up the key to the White House and make sure that the biggest economy in the world is run by people who know how to run an economic entity, unlike Obama.

WINBUSH: Right now, I think we're focusing too much on the economics of America. People need to go back to work understanding that it's not how much you earn, but it's how much you learn that makes you successful and, you know, a good quality of life. If you eat every day and have a place to sleep and you're comfortable and have clothes on your back, you're successful.

And I think we've focused too much on who has what. We're very materialistic and I don't think we should be. That's not success and I think we have indoctrinated our children to believe he who has the most toys wins, but that's not true. What good is having toys with no one to play with?

KHORRAM: Where people work together for making their families and their own lives better and that's our bond and unifying factor, wanting a better life. You start taking that away from people. You kill hope in people heart and spirits and that is when you have a sick economy like we're having right now. You need to build hope. You need to build ambition in people. You want to ask people - they can do it.

MARTIN: Hossein Khorram, as he mentioned earlier, is an immigrant from Iran. He's a Muslim. Tracey Winbush is, as she also mentioned, a native born African-American from Ohio. And, even though they're both minorities in the Republican Party, they have pretty different views on how the GOP approaches race and cultural issues.

WINBUSH: There are not a lot of us around here. I look around and say, oh, where's my people at?

EMILY OCHSENSCHLAGER, BYLINE: So what do you think about that?

WINBUSH: I think it's sad. That's why African-Americans are losing. They don't understand the political process. They're losing. It's not about the party. It's about the platform and the purpose and we need to engage in the political system a little bit more. We are too lopsided and, right now, we're being ignored by one and we're being abused by the other and it's not working because everywhere you have a concentrated group of African-Americans or people of color or people who are impoverished. They don't have any selection and they're all Democrat-controlled.

There's a reason why our forefathers had balance in government and the balance was checks and balances so that you could engage in the process and we're so lopsided that we're getting ready to tip over our boat and almost drown.

KHORRAM: I'm from Iran. We were kids when my parents brought us here and I'm honored to be in the Republican Party. I'm a Muslim. I'm a proud American Muslim. What is beautiful about the Republican Party or our nation is the fact that our nation - or the Republican Party - does not differentiate on the skin, on the religion, on the race or ethnicity. Republican Party is a party of opportunity. If you can provide, you can go ahead. You can succeed in your life and that's what I've seen.

WINBUSH: The Republicans have a hard time getting their message out in soundbites. Republicans are going to have to reshape their message for a special demographic just as they would if they didn't speak English. African-Americans are a special niche and just because we speak English, you cannot lump us into a certain demographic. We have certain concerns that need to be addressed, and until we address those concerns in a way that they can understand it and let the media not polarize us as much as they do, we'll never get our message across.

Even when you look at voting rights and the suppression thing, we need to understand that this is not about suppression, it's really not because African-Americans don't come out and vote like they should. The Get Out the Vote in the African-American community really is not the issue here. It's more about people who are undocumented workers voting. It's not about African-Americans. We can't get them to come vote even with no I.D. So we need to educate them. Republicans need to educate them on the process. They need to reach out to them and let them know that they are Americans and that we want to make them equal because they are - and quit letting them think and letting the media and letting the media and letting other people think that Republicans are racist because it's not true - because if they were racist I wouldn't be here. Is there ignorance? Absolutely. There's a lot of ignorance. That's because they don't have people who look like me as their friends. And then I have to say on the other side, African-Americans are ignorant when it comes to how they think white people feel about them because it's not true. We've got good and bad in both.

MARTIN: And finally, as the week wraps with at the RNC in Tampa, Hossein Khorram and Tracey Winbush say they were happy to be there and excited about the next few months.

KHORRAM: We're waiting to get the key to the White House from President Obama. I'm sure we're going to get that key. And I promise you this and promise the American people, once we have that key; we're going to go to work. We're going to put the American people to do what they want to do. They want to go to work. We don't need any handout. We want to build a better life for our families. That's why we all came to the United States, whether it's a Muslim immigrant like me or your ancestors, we all gave up, we took the challenges, we confronted the unforeseen, we came here for a better life for all our families. Let us have that. We're ready.

WINBUSH: This is a motivational seminar for the Republican Party to go out and march to the base. That's what this is. We're telling our message; we're singing our song and we're coming together with our plan and our program. That's what this is all about. But to see how much they put into it, how much attention the media has put into it. I mean every major news broadcaster in the world is here. That's amazing to me, because everybody cares about Americans electorate. The question is does America care about their electorate?

MARTIN: Those were the voices of Tracey Winbush of Youngstown, Ohio, and Hossein Khorram of Bellevue, Washington. They are both in Tampa attending the Republican National Convention, which is meeting there. And we caught up with them there. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.