UPDATE: Republished in HuffPo! Republican Reformation: ¿GOP Out, In, or No-reach?
Via tweets, emails, Republican friends, or smoke signals, I am getting the message that the GOP is more inclusive, indeed it is a new day.
Why? In November of 2012, Republicans lost the White House largely because they lost Latinos and single women voters who rejected its exclusive ideology promoted by conservative media, bankrolled by special interest groups, and embodied by “47%” and “legitimate rape” gaffe-prone candidates–manna from heaven to Democratic opponents.
As elements of the party self-destruct, a Republican Reformation of sorts is emerging, complete with a report and staff appointments charged with “reaching out” to minorities and women (little to none in 2012), in hopes of conversion.
This was the hot topic discussed on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin in the Beauty Shop segment where I joined Michel, PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson, and Emory political science professor Andra Gillespie to talk about GOP efforts to recruit a broader swath of voters. Click below to hear this roundtable discussion that aired on April 17, 2012.
Mami always cautioned against sudden personal or political transformations, inculcating: “aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda” which basically means “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
True. But particularly for Latinos–an emerging political class–it’s crucial that as this voting bloc acquires power with more Hispanics becoming citizens, registering to vote, and participating in elections at every level, our minds remain open and we make each party work for our vote.
Speaking with different Latinos, I’ve heard countless times:
We are no longer bowing our heads to el patrón, in a submissive, ¡sí señor! position. Our time is now.
On immigration, this means making a pathway to citizenship a non-negotiable, even though the data quantifying past opportunities does not suggest that given the chance, residents will become citizens in large numbers as I write in Immigration Bill: How to Make the Bad, Good.
Still, in a sign of political savvy, this new group is emboldened and driving this issue’s momentum.
And it’s working. With the exception of hardliners who are increasingly being shunned (more on that in a bit), many in the GOP want immigration reform to pass before the August recess and most importantly, before the 2014 election cycle ramps up. The thinking is that passing this legislation would represent a political tabula rasa with the wiped slate filled with issues, for example, jobs creation, a budget, and tax reform for Republicans to hammer Democrats with.
Most Republicans realize the party is best served when toxic political rhetoric is repudiated. Alaska U.S. Congressman Don Young’s use of “wetbacks” to describe farmworkers in the U.S. illegally received unified and swift condemnation from House Speaker John Boehner and party chairman Reince Priebus.
Will we see more of this kind of response on issues, especially those with a large social component, where the GOP appears out of step, even with its own youth voters? Will it be able to magnify its message with social media, and perhaps challenge the Obama White House dominance of this aspect of the communications game?
Accepting that Latinos are more comfortable with a larger government presence as is demonstrated in their support of the Affordable Care Act, how can Republicans find an opening on, for example, education and jobs creation policy? Surely, they see the opportunity with school choice for parents whose kids are trapped in failing districts or our continuing high unemployment rate and evaporating wealth accelerated by the economy’s implosion and weak recovery?
Crucial is not just outreach but proving that the GOP champions the best policies for opportunity and upward mobility for all Americans. This is where Democrats are pushing back hard, for example on web ads micro-targeting women on a bill that would give hourly private sector workers more flexibility to choose their preferred method of compensation for overtime worked–comp days or cash payment. “The problem for Republicans isn’t what they’re targeting, it’s what they’re selling,” says Jesse Ferguson, a House Democratic campaign operation spokesman in USA Today.
Does the Republican Reformation include substance? That would require taking different positions–swapping out gleeful emails detailing how the White House and Democrats caved when frequent fliers fumed in snarled airport security lines (this comes from someone who was “sequestered by the sequester” last Thursday at Dulles, witnessing hundreds of frustrated passengers funneling through FOUR security lines) for outrage and indignation because gramps is not getting his meal delivered on wheels or kids’ brains are being left to atrophy in front of a television because the doors to their Head Start classrooms are locked.
Sticking up for the little guy when cuts are deeper than missed flights–these are the planks that form the foundation of platforms that build bridges into communities where evangelized believers will do “in reach.” This wins hearts and elections.
Why bother sketching out a strategy that could slowly begin winning over Latino and women voters? If we accept conservative commentator George Will’s assertion that demography is destiny, why offer leads to reach communities that are transforming America as confirmed by the 2010 U.S. Census?
If you bemoan our two party system–political gridlock and the influence of special interests–imagine our country under one party rule.
“Republican Reformation: Out, In, or No-Reach?” was re-published in the Huffington Post on April 19, 2013.How effective will these new efforts be to grow the Republican party with new voters?