On Friday, former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich – to the surprise of many – said this in the aftermath of last week’s violence:
“If you are a normal white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.”
But Gingrich also said this:
“It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to get a sense of this.”
One of those influences very likely was Randy Evans, a Dentons attorney in Atlanta and lifelong confidante of Gingrich. On Friday, Bill Nigut, the host of GPB’s “Political Rewind,” invited Evans, a member of the Republican National Committee, into the studio to chat with us.
Evans, 57, told this story:
“When I was in high school, one of my best friends was African-American. And we hung out, all together, and we were driving to Daytona to go to the beach for spring break. It was about two in the morning, and we got pulled over in Alabama.
“My friend turns to me, and he says, ‘Quick. Stick your arms out the window.’
“And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’”
“And he says, ‘Stick your arms out the window.’
“And I said, ‘For real, what’s this about?’
“He says, ‘I want you to stick your arms out the window so they know one of us is white.’
“And then at that very moment, I realized that I would never know – I would never have thought of that in a million years, and yet it was instinctive for him.”
Evans would meet Gingrich only a few years later, when he was a student at West Georgia College and Gingrich was a member of the faculty. Evans also spoke of what Gingrich would bring to the table if Republican presidential presumptive Donald Trump were to pick the former House speaker as his running mate:
“Donald Trump’s polling in the low ‘70s (percent) among Republicans. To win, you’ve got to win your party. And you’ve got to win in the ‘90s. Mitt Romney was at 92, I think. If Trump picked Newt, you would immediately see that number jump from 70 to 90…
Trump’s kids and his wife play a very important role in all decision-making. So I don’t think it will be Donald Trump making the call.
Who are the top alternatives? Evans said Trump’s family prefers Mike Pence. The choice is important, he said:
“I don’t think Hillary’s pick is going to make or break her. I really don’t….But for Trump, I think the VP pick could be make-or-break.
Evans is also a member of the RNC rules committee, which this week could determine the fate of an anti-Donald Trump movement. The rules committee meets Thursday and Friday in Cleveland. Anti-Trump forces need to muster 28 of 112 votes in order to be able to attach a minority report to the committee’s recommendations.
That minority report would contain a provision that would release delegates from their pledges to vote for Trump as the Republican nominee – if that vote would violate their conscience. Evans doesn’t think it will go anywhere:
“Based on our whip counts, I think you’re looking at a vote of about 92 to 18 on the conscientious objection issue. I think there will be miscellaneous – what I call housekeeping rule changes. Some of them will rise and some of them will fail. But I think in terms of the overall 110 or 112 convention rules committee – we’re not going to get a minority report, and they’re not going to get through the rule that they want to, to unbind delegates.”