With a strong emphasis on family and a decidedly conservative focus on key social issues such as crime, education and religion, both African-Americans and Latinos have long shared a common thread with the Republican Party, only to overwhelmingly support Democrats in the face of GOP extremism.
That inability of the Republican Party to connect with either growing group is one of the major reasons why President Barack Obama ran to an Electoral College rout of GOP challenger Mitt Romney last week and captured a second term in the White House. Whether that changes or not will determine the future of the Republican Party.
The president enjoyed the support of 71 percent of Latinos and roughly 95 percent of the African-American vote in last week’s election.
Only things are only shaping up to only get worse for the GOP.
Latinos are already the nation’s largest minority group at 16 percent of the U.S. population and are expected to account for 30 percent by the year 2050, while African-Americans have begun last voting en masse as of the most recent two presidential elections to flex their own political muscle.
So how do Republicans appeal to either group in the hopes of remaining politically relevant in the future?
Yeah, they can hit the talk show circuit as they have ad nauseum within the last week, preaching about the need to make better outreach to people of color so as to diversify their party.
But actions speak louder than words, meaning African-Americans and Latinos will demand more than just lip service designed to simply placate them. That means actively supporting candidates of color such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, newly-elected Texas Senator Ted Cruz, black conservatives like Mia Love and others. But minority groups will also demand to see less of the hate-filled venom espoused by so many of the GOP’s extreme right and more minority-friendly legislation that can make a positive difference in their lives.
But that means that Republican leadership is going to have to actually stand up to the party’s lunatic fringe elements – such as the Tea Party and blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to name a few – rather than just sit idly by and watch their extremist, right-wing ideology hijack the party of Lincoln.
Last week’s election beat down will give them their chance – and motivation – to finally do just that. It might make for an ugly, public spat, but the Republican Party’s future depends on it.
In the meantime, however, the GOP brain trust had best quickly come to terms with the fact that words are just that, but they do matter. A ridiculous GOP primary system that prompted the candidates to run as hard right as possible scared the majority of Americans. Rather than try to be an open-tent party of inclusion, the Republicans cast themselves as a narrow-minded, bigoted lot desperate to cling to power despite clear evidence of the nation’s oncoming demographic changes.
They scared the hell out of the majority of Americans, especially fair-minded independent voters whose idea about the country we all love includes making sure everybody gets a fair shot at the American Dream. It was for that reason that President Obama carried every battleground state except for North Carolina.
Mining the African-American community for possible votes will likely never be as potential easy for the GOP than it was during the 2012 presidential election. There was a palpable sense of discontent among President Obama’s most loyal base due to a lingering unemployment problem among that ranks nearly double the national average of just under eight percent, especially for younger African-Americans between the ages of 18-29. Likewise, their conservative nature caused many African-Americans to be disappointed with Obama’s decision to support gay marriage.
But the Republican still got nowhere among the black community. Racially-charged attacks on the president by Republican extremists and other racially-motivated campaign strategies on such issues as welfare reform were equally as short-sighted as they were damaging to GOP efforts to make inroads. GOP strategists know all too well that the majority of the nation’s welfare recipients are white and mostly living in the deeply conservative Deep South, yet they allowed the perception otherwise among their base to fester because they believed to do so was politically advantageous. It was Richard’s Nixon’s infamous “Southern Strategy” that first made the politics of fear and playing on racial prejudices a winning Republican strategy for elections. Cutthroat operatives like the late Lee Atwater contributed further by adding such racially-coded words as “welfare queen” to the nation’s political lexicon, all of which played to the GOP favor.
Not any more as both African-Americans and Latinos have grown substantially in numbers, both among the general population as well as the voting electorate.
The Republican Party will have to come with a new playbook if it hopes to remain viable as a political party.
Actually caring about people who don’t look like them would be a good start.
Likewise with Latinos, the compassion-challenged GOP would be best advised in the future to frame any talk of immigration in terms of an economic issue rather than a cultural one. That seems a more humane and politically savvy way to address a broken system rather than demonize a specific group that only seeks a better life for themselves and their families.
Or the GOP could just simply care less about the African-American or Latino vote as they did this year.
Of course, that didn’t work out too well, did it?