Does the GOP Really Want to Woo Blacks and Latinos?

If Republicans are serious about trying get more black and brown people under their wing, here are a few things they could try

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Mario Tama / Getty Images

People line up to vote outside Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in the presidential election on November 4, 2008, in Birmingham, Alabama

The GOP is in the wilderness, holding meetings to discuss how to respark the party. Naturally, one of the topics they’re focusing on is how to woo black and brown voters. In the 2012 election, the GOP was rejected by more than 70% of Latino voters and 90% of black voters, and these groups make up a rising share of America. Since 1980, the white portion of the electorate has been steadily declining, and by 2042 the U.S. Census predicts that whites will make up less than half of the U.S. population. Already more than 50% of the babies in the U.S. are non-white. Given these demographic trends it’s imperative for the GOP to find ways to lure black and brown voters. As a thought experiment, I wondered, what can they do?

I can already hear some of people yelling, “No! Don’t help them!” While I understand that impulse, I think it’d be great for black and brown people to have two parties competing to win their votes by offering valuable policies. I also suspect the GOP isn’t truly interested, so these suggestions will likely fall on deaf ears. Michael Steele, the former chair of the RNC, told me, “The grand strategy the RNC leadership is planning to launch clearly is not based on the substance of knowing first and foremost why voters of color are turned off by our message and our candidates. So how do we begin to fix the problem when we don’t understand what the problem is?”

(MORE: Viewpoint: The GOP Searches For a New Strategy in All the Wrong Places)

Besides, nothing can be done quickly. There’s no silver bullet or simple policy change that could reverse a decades-long problem. Even if they implemented my suggestions tomorrow, it would still take more than one election cycle before the impact would become clear. People’s attitudes toward a party are formed from a long-term accumulation of opinions about their policies and the people who inhabit the party. The GOP is part of the new push on immigration, but as Chris Hayes from MSNBC and The Nation tweeted, “CIR [Comprehensive Immigration Reform] is the right thing to do, but if the GOP thinks it will solve their problem with Latino voters they’re delusional.”

A large part of the problem the GOP has with voters of color is the brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others. When those people are some of the loudest voices in your party, then most black and brown people are going to be repelled and feel unwelcome. The GOP needs louder voices — leadership voices — speaking back and saying, “No, that’s not who we are (anymore).” Donald Trump is a prominent Republican who pushed the birther cause years into Obama’s presidency. There must be prominent Republicans who loudly push back and say, “We disagree with the president, but are certain that he’s legitimately American.” Otherwise potential voters don’t know whether the party condones racist behavior.

The party also needs to change the rhetoric of their elected officials and surrogates to not be racially toxic, baiting and dog whistle-ish. This week the GOP was told by the Hispanic outreach arm of a GOP SuperPAC to avoid pejoratives like illegal, alien, anchor baby and electric fence. To that I’d add: food stamp president, lazy, un-American, handout, takers, democratic plantation and other obviously loaded terms that show a blatant lack of respect for black and brown people. It’s hard to consider the policies of a party whose members use inflammatory language about you. Also: avoid at all cost having panels about how to successfully communicate with black and brown people in rooms named “Burwell Plantation,” which is named for a slave-owning family. That actually happened at a recent House GOP retreat. How is it possible that no one thought that might leave a bad taste in the mouths of the people you’re talking about reaching?

(MORE: Touré: How to Read Political Racial Code)

The GOP could also refresh some of its messaging for black and brown people. For example, their gun rights position could be tailored to black and brown people — many of whom live in neighborhoods where crime is not unexpected. Something like “you need to protect yourself, the cops can’t always be there for you, and we’re the party fighting to continue your right to protect yourself” could work. An ad saying, “What if Trayvon had a gun?” could be persuasive. I personally think more guns leads to more bloodshed, and if Trayvon had had a gun, he’d either be dead or on trial for murder. I believe guns provide the illusion of security, not true security, but the GOP disagrees and some black and brown Americans could be persuaded to see it their way.

But there will have to be some policy changes, too. Voter ID laws seem very much designed to functionally disenfranchise black and brown voters (as well as other traditional democratic voters). Harsh anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s S.B. 1070, a.k.a. “Papers Please,” stigmatizes the Latino community, leaves them targeted as enemies and makes it hard for them to seriously consider the GOP. Stand Your Ground is also a problematic law that many black and brown people see as set in place to aid whites in protecting themselves from blacks. You can argue the specific merits of these laws if you like, but you’ll struggle to get black and brown people to not see them as an assault.

It also may be time to take a hard look at entitlement reform. It’s in vogue in D.C., but Medicare and Medicaid are popular with all Americans, including black and brown people who hear themselves demonized in the debate. They hear that the Democratic Party will be there in a time of need, while the Republicans will demand you pull yourself up by your bootstraps in a world marked by white privilege, where for many people race is a difficult hurdle to get over. They hear that if the world is divided into makers and takers then a dollar given in welfare is given to a lazy person of color and taken from a hard-working white person. This thinking is corrosive to the Republican Party.

(MORE: Romney Plays the Race Card)

These ideas may not be easy to adopt because the policies I suggest they leave behind speak to white anxiety and give whites, especially in the working class, a sense that the Republican Party is there to protect them, while the Dems are going to protect the racial other. Stoking fear of that other is baked into their appeal to a key part of their constituency, and has become part of the soul of the party. They’re going to need to extract that before they can begin an honest conversation about wooing voters of color. All that’s at stake is getting back in the White House.

24 comments
MattNorcross
MattNorcross

Wow, I just gotta say that Toure is one of the worst race-baiters working in the media right now. The people at TIME need to fire him ASAP.

UnclePhil
UnclePhil like.author.displayName 1 Like

The increasing number of independent voters reflects growing dissatisfaction with both major political parties, most of whom would probably describe themselves as liberal on social issues, conservative on fiscal issues, and weary of those who seek to define and divide us based on the color of our skin.  As for the GOP, it would be best served by focusing on women, who seem, for the most part, more practical and less political than men.   

ehurley572
ehurley572 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I am a black college educated female with a high paying job and a home in a upscale community.

Why would I vote for any GOP. They equate black/brown people with poverty, welfare, and moochers. They are disrespectful and condescending. A goup of Tea partiers once told me I would support them, if TP views were explained to me. I am not permitted to live by my core beliefs. They legislate their extreme concepts and expect me to live by them. No thank you.

fishinguy
fishinguy

It's not the blacks that the GOP is against, it's the"government take care of me Obamaites" that are opposed. But until the blacks stop being the true racist, and give everyone a fair shake ( like they want to be treated), The GOP will struggle. Too bad the democrats always turn to race when they don't have a plan.

internationalcrosser
internationalcrosser

If the GOP dies off then the US becomes a Dictarship. Why vote if there is only one party to vote for (Democrats).  If Americans stop supporting GOP then America will become another Cuba or China. Apparently folks here in this blog would prefer a "Liberalism Dictarship". 

sandifjm
sandifjm

@internationalcrosser So the choice is either vote Republican, or vote for a "dictatorship"? How about creating a modern, inclusive Republican party, or another party (or two) altogether?  Seeing the world as a series of black-and-white, false dichotomies is a big part of what ails modern conservatism.

aztecian
aztecian like.author.displayName 1 Like

@internationalcrosser so what's your point.  the GEE-o-PEE has been the dictatorship for the last 400 years...albeit under different names, but same bloodlines.  we can't let the rethugs take away or rights and benefits!

MarcusTaylor
MarcusTaylor like.author.displayName 1 Like

Here are the cold hard facts:

The voting White population in America comprises approximately      64%

The voting Black population in America comprises approximately      13%

The voting Hispanic population in America comprises approximately 16%

The voting Asian population in America comprises approximately        7%

White America is evenly divided insofar as "Liberal - Conservative" is concerned. So when you have 93% of the Black population voting Democrat and 73% of the Hispanic population voting Democrat and 70% of the Asian population voting Democrat; well the Republicans are finished as a viable political party. Old racist white men are dying off at an accelerated rate and the youngsters are more "liberal" than not.

The only way the Republicans can survive is to become Democrats.  Remember Bill Clinton took everything the GOP stood for and made it his own!

internationalcrosser
internationalcrosser

So basically want you accept is US Dictatship. If the GOP dies off, then US is left with only the Democrats. Why bother voting if theyre is only one party to vote for. You're quite ignorgant and just full of hatred against GOP. Think again if you don't want USA to become Cuba or China.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@internationalcrosser 

You are ignorant of American history if you think that makes a dictatorship...

Parties have died before in the US and another always rises to replace it.

Ry27
Ry27

The GOP is certainly not finished as a viable party, far from it actually.  As people grow older, most recognize the lies espoused by liberalism.  It's typical of teenagers, for example, to be rebellious against their parents.  That rebellion gradually subsides as they grow older and gain a better understanding of the world.

It's those who believe that government can provide for all by taking from the makers, that the new makers realize what exactly is being taken.

When takers are self-less and understand that the world doesn't owe them anything (because ultimately, the world is people), is when we can have a thriving country and economy.  When the takers don't blame the makers for their misfortune, we will finally have a truly enlightenedd society.



Oh and note I didn't even mention race.  I dare you now, based on what I've said above, to say that I'm a racist.  And when you admit that you cannot, you must also note that what I've said are among the values the GOP stands for.  Therefore, the GOP has values that aren't racist.  And it's people like yourself who are propagated to, that also propagate the lie of racism.


Wake up and understand that the values of God, freedom, love and liberty are entirely colour-blind!

sandifjm
sandifjm

@Ry27 You're full of it, although I suspect you might actually believe what you're saying. The Republican strategy since Nixon has been to make veiled appeals to race and scare white voters into casting ballots for them.  Do you think people are dumb enough to not understand what the talking heads at Faux News mean when they discuss "makers" vs. "takers"? Or that people don't understand that the real problem the "Birthers" have with president Obama has nothing to do with where they think he was born? Your failure to acknowledge the basic reality of the situation is why the GOP is going to have a very hard time winning a national election anytime soon.

wrathbrow
wrathbrow like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Ry27  

More and more people are getting tired of people trying to shove their beliefs at them. The Tea Party side of the GOP tends to tell people base your values on my belief, and goes one step further and tries to make laws that lock out the belief of others.

I did wake up, God is a made up story, and freedom and love and liberty can exist in both people who do and don't believe in it. I support people who do believe it that story even though I don't and support their rights to do so in their own place and won't tell them they need to change. You on the other hand appear to want to shove your belief in religion upon others.

aztecian
aztecian like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@wrathbrow @Ry27 typical GEE-O-PEE bible thumping/obstructionist/racist tactics.  they always want to tell people what they can and cannot do, including vaginal inspections!  what's next anal probing?

aztecian
aztecian

@Ry27 uR racist by association...and there you go again, bible thumping.  why don't you add guns and liberty with a big eagle the back of your pickup's window?

T.P.Chia
T.P.Chia like.author.displayName 1 Like

The future of the Republican Party is bleak, no matter how it changes its way of dealing with the non-white Americans.

GOP's major enemy is its own ideology--conservative, dogmatic and antagonistic to social fairness and justice. GOP is ideoloically biased for the rich, enterprising and successful individuals, and is unsympathetic, if not hostile, to the poor, jobless and struggling people.  DOP's oppossing the medicare and other social welfare, educational programs is prejudicial to those who need government assistance across the racial line. GOP abandons the poor whites, too--About 30% of white voters did not support the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election,. The majority of the needy are black and brown Americans who cannot possibly support GOP.

The Democratic Party's strenghts lie in its belief that the government should play the role of helping all citizens, especially the needy and the poor, to seccure a better life. The liberal Democrats are in favor of social and racial equality, which is beneficial to the white poor, too. This is not a racial policy, either.  The white voters who supported President Barack Obama's re-election are unlikely to be future GOP supporters.

What the GOP needs to do is to re-exmine it's outdated ideology.

larsonm
larsonm

@T.P.Chia

"GOP is ideoloically biased for the rich, enterprising and successful individuals, and is unsympathetic, if not hostile, to the poor, jobless and struggling people."

Concur, but I would just add this.  The GOP has a solid base among the very rich that comprises ~10% of the population.  It has another ~20% from the deep south that are still fighting the civil war.  As a result, the party is not going to fade away -- the means are there to buy a very large number of elections in sparsely populated areas (think the south and the area between the Mississippi River and the Sierra Nevadas) for a very long time.  But to expand beyond this 30% is a real struggle because the rest of the country has little in common with these two groups -- and is in fact outright hostile to the ideas that bind them.  This, then, becomes the challenge -- how to garner the additional 20% needed for statewide/national elections without giving up the base.  It will be interesting to see how the GOP approaches this -- the approach for 2008 and, especially, 2012 was to just run against the black guy -- but it is hard to see how to do that the next time around.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq like.author.displayName 1 Like

"The (GOP) party condones racist behavior."  Enough said.  For the sake of the nation, RIP GOP.

aztecian
aztecian like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JohnYuEsq the GEE-O-PEE is the party of racism, bigotry, and obstructionism.  their sole motivation is to obstruct the progressive movement and enslave people with capitalist ideals.

Ry27
Ry27

There's only one party that consistently raises the issue of race time and time again.  The other party is a tent for everyone, for those who value freedom and liberty, and don't pin their allegiance to race.  All are welcome, but as long as you blind yourself into thinking the GOP somehow stands for "white males", you're doing yourself and everyone a disservice by your ignorance.

And then there's folks with only one name like this lad whose pretentiousness knows no bounds and perfectly illustrates the smug arrogance among those who truly believe that they themselves are not racist, only to be looked upon as fools by the rest of us that know what truly the GOP stands for.  It would be laughable if it weren't so sad how prevalent this attitude is among the ignorant and wilfully blind.

There is hope, however.  Don't believe the lame arguments like Mr. One-Name here provides.  Understand that it is <i>values</i> that define the GOP, not race, not language.  The values of God, freedom, liberty, love and ultimately the belief that YOU are the maker of your own destiny and that no one has the right to tell you otherwise.

The Democrats have traditionally been the party of the racists, and continue to be through their constant use of racial issues to divide the public.  Use your mind and understand the values that truly make up the foundation of the GOP.  

aztecian
aztecian like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Ry27 yes GEE-O-PEE stands for the party of the whiteman!

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Considering the whole identity of the GOP, and every single policy of the GOP and every single tactic, smoke-screen "values" issue, is centered around the empowerment and enrichment of wealthy white males who have no desire to associate with the very people they need to stay in power, I don't see the GOP remaining a viable party.  They've tried playing to the lunatic fringe in their midst - the radical ideologies they believe they must give lip service to or risk not being elected.  That only proved they can't get elected if they do because the electorate is changing.

As has been pointed out by many others, the GOP ran a strict 1980's campaign against a very weak and vulnerable president and they LOST.  That should tell them it wasn't the rhetoric (though they think it was), it wasn't the a conspiracy of the liberal press to paint them in a bad light (though they think it was), it wasn't even their complete delusional belief that a 1980's-style campaign could win (though they should have known better). They've been spouting the same drivel for 32 years and counting! What the GOP did wrong was turn right-wing politics into a religion, start excluding everyone who didn't toe the ideological line and demonize the very people they needed to get elected.  Not only that, they continue the same tactics in congress that got their approval rating placed just below pond scum (literally!).

The bottom line, when distilled down to its essence, is that the GOP was so focused on their agendas, they forgot we live in a democracy.  They became son convinced of their own ideological superiority (just as religions do) they couldn't conceive that people would not only reject it (as millions did), but would actually go vote for the other guys instead.

Now, least those of you who are righties and offended believe that I'me just a life-long leftie, I was a registered Republican until I saw the party getting more dogmatic, less inclusive and more hateful as time went on.  I'm not registered as anything anymore.  The party I used to belong to has become (to me) a religion-obsessed, anti-science, anti-human, anti-progress, hateful organization bent on securing and maintaining its own power by any means.  The liberals aren't better enough than that to join them.  The center-right position of the majority of Americans has not significantly changed in 100 years.  But the party that used to represent that is now so far to the right, it no longer represents reason, rational thought, logic or, indeed, good policy.  Not for 1980.  Not for 2012.  Not for any time except, perhaps, the 1950's when Joe McCarthy ran the government, or the 1940's when Roosevelt did.

The GOP can't re-brand.  Yes, people are stupid, but they're not complete morons.  No one is going to believe a change in rhetoric when the policies and goals remain the same.  And without those policies and goals, the GOP isn't the GOP anymore.  The inevitable result of this election will either be the total marginalization of the right-wing in U.S. politics due to fracturing in-fighting and one party rule (for a while, at least) or the emergence of a centrist party that is left enough of center to draw away enough Democrats to create a three party system which will require the centrist party's agreement on anything to get passed.

To be honest, given how the political system in this country operates and who gets chosen by the financiers to have a real chance of winning in the first place, I expect to see one party rule for a while.  The GOP is on its last legs, gerrymandered into a semblance of power in defiance of the overall will of the people.  It's up to the people to change that, and as I said, the people are stupid.  They tend to think their own representative isn't part of the problem when, in fact, they all are.  If they'd figure THAT out (which is extremely unlikely), a centrist, inclusive third party could have a chance to rise from grass-roots support.

The way I see it, if you don't like most of the policies of your party, you're in the wrong party.  You don't have to like EVERY policy, but you should at least agree with most of them.  The left and the right have some good ideas, but neither are packaged in one party.  Those who can't conceive of the other party having ANYTHING good about them won't budge, of course.  But those who believe in sanity, reason and moderation without the excesses and extremism of the Libertarians, the Greens and the other fringe or one-issue parties could band together to call for a party that actually represents where America stands.  At the very least, if we can have a party that can talk to the two sides because they have something in common with them, we might actually have governance in Washington, instead of confrontation and stagnation that puts every average, middle-class American's job, lifestyle and income at risk.

We still have two years til the mid-term elections, folks.  Think about that.