And Still!!! Lessons Learned from the Re-election of Barack Obama (Part 2)
Ever since Mitt Romney’s loss in the election a week ago, Republicans have been alternately fretting about whether the election was a repudiation of conservatism and trying to reassure themselves that all they might need to do is fix their “Hispanic problem” and all will be right in the world. I for one am not sure how far Republicans are going to get with Hispanics if they keep referring to their tone deaf approach as a “Hispanic problem” or an “African American problem” or a “woman problem.” It seems to me that they don’t have any sense of the problem at all. More disconcerting for them is that more Asian Americans also voted for Obama than for Romney.
Early analysis of that result produced the surprising conclusion that most ethnic minorities think that self deportation is a bad idea, since most ethnic minorities actually have family members who might want to come here at some point or another and such a harsh stance on immigration makes them feel like Republicans might be just a little hostile to minorities.
In my opinion the Republican Party needs to do some critical thinking and deep analysis about what its position has been in American politics and try to understand how it has managed to get itself into this position.
As far as I can tell the ethnocentric dimension of their platform began with the much talked about Southern Strategy
. In the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement the Republican Party made a conscious decision in terms of political strategy to consolidate white votes and ignore minorities. As a result they pursued a platform that was tinged in racial discourse, many times appealing to subconscious divisive racial themes, but at times in a very overt fashion. In the 1980s much of this came to a head when the used racially tinged messaging to call for reduction of welfare funding. Its portrayal of black women on welfare as “welfare queens” was especially off putting to African Americans. Although this is just one type of example this type of racial messaging from the Republican Party has been going on for about 50 years now. For more on the issue an interesting book to read is called Republicans and the Black Vote
Recently, Charles Krauthammer wrote
an editorial for the Washington Post titled “The Way Forward” in this article he declared that the African Amercian demographic tends to be more politically liberal and that’s why African Americans tend to vote more Democratic than Republican. However, this is generally untrue. There is a large segment of African Americans who might be receptive to a conservative message if it was decoupled from the off putting racist undertones that the Republican party finds it necessary to peddle. Unfortunately at this point the Republican Party has pushed the African American community so far from its reach that it doesn’t even compete for African American votes.
I propose an easy way to fix this would be to try and actually have some understanding of the difficult predicament African Americans find themselves in. Despite the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement too many African Americans still lack equal opportunity, too many are unemployed (while national unemployment is about 8 percent, black unemployment is about 13 percent) too many African American children do not have access to high quality education, and too many young African American males find themselves in prison as opposed to high school or college.
If Republicans had some understanding of the causes of these conditions they would realize that there is a conservative initiative that they purport to support that may actually be of some help to African Americans. One of the main reasons that African American rates of unemployment remain high is because of a lack of established networks of African American owned businesses that could provide more jobs for African Americans. Since these businesses would obviously start as small businesses the Republican platform advocating support of small businesses could be expanded to include the serious measures to increase the number of small businesses.
The Republican Party would do well to explain that they would seek out special measures for minorities to gain funds and access to create small businesses. However, if that is not within the character of the party they could at least explain how this part of their platform could have great appeal to minorities when they come to speak to groups such as the NAACP, as opposed to talking to minorities about what they won’t do or how they are going to repeal programs that African Americans view as necessary. This strategy will take some time as the Republicans have been turning off and tuning out African Americans for several decades and any initial overtures will be met with well deserved distrust.
Similarly, the Republican Party has gotten off on the wrong foot with the Hispanic community. Ironically, just 12 years ago when President Bush was running for president he was smart enough to realize that immigration would be an issue that would cause him to lose much needed votes within the Hispanic community. By at least supporting discussion about a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, President Bush was able to secure a significant amount of votes within the Hispanic community. However, in the last four years the rise of the Tea Party has moved the Republican Party to such an extreme position that it completely turned off the Hispanic community. They claim that they can rectify this rift by simply reversing position on illegal immigration. However, I wonder if Hispanics will fully trust their sincerity. I also wonder if the Tea Party will go for this reversal.
Another example of a slighted demographic is the way that women were slighted during the campaign on issues of gender equality. On the issues of equal pay for equal work, Mitt Romney had nothing to say. He also pledged to end planned parenthood. Interestingly not all women are in favor of Planned Parenthood, but the tone with which Mitt Romney conveyed the message displayed a stunning lack of empathy, which many voters picked up on. On the other hand, the President eloquently described how issues of gender equality are not just issued that concern women, but they are family issues. Especially with the reality that women are increasingly becoming breadwinners in American households.
By doing this the president conveyed a message that we’re all in the American experience together. In short, the message was of inclusiveness, while the Republican message over the course of the election was one of division and exclusivity. This image of the Republican Party had the unfortunate quality of resonating with the message of the Republican Party as the party of extreme partisanship and the party of “No.”
I think these messages were ultimately was the undoing of the Republican Party in the latest round of politics, and if they do not do something substantial to make their platform of limited government and individualism appealing to minorities in a thoughtful way they will indeed find themselves irrelevant.