Everyone is fully aware of the GOP inability to make inroads with minority voters, especially blacks and Hispanics. And no one is to blame here but the Republican Party. Unfortunately, the GOP got drunk on their historic success in the 2010 midterm elections and made the mistake that this would carry over to the 2012 Presidential election. The Romney campaign made some tactical errors and, quite frankly, he was not exactly the best candidate. Instead resting on one’s laurels and successes, the other side did not stand still and neither should the Republican Party.
It should also be noted that a presidential candidate does not have to win some demographic outright, but just make some inroads in order to sway an election, especially a close one. And when it comes to presidential elections, one just has to make targeted inroads in particular states.
The first principle is to realize that making these improvements is a long-term project. The GOP is not going to create a fundamental shift overnight. In fact, the goal should not even be a fundamental shift, but simply a weakening of the Democratic majorities. Getting to double digits with blacks would be a good start. Achieving the success Bush had with Hispanics in 2004 would be a good start. Therefore, the second principle is to make the effort incrementally. Sometimes doing too much in too short a time creates only confusion and you end up shooting yourself in the foot, or worse, end up looking like you are pandering for votes. Republicans need to stop acting like Democrats with minority voters because those voters will likely vote Democratic any way.
As part of that incremental change, it needs to start locally. There cannot be national minority Republican figures without first having them at the local level. Therefore, grassroots organization in minority communities is a must. Part of that is to identify conservative minority voters and then make sure they actually vote come Election Day. Community organizing worked well for Obama and it has been working well for liberal groups. Sadly, the GOP has not kept pace in this area. There are surely conservative minority voters out there.
Step four is to highlight your people. And that includes the many varieties of Republican- from the staunchly conservative Ted Cruz to the more mainstream Susanna Martinez, from the Tea Party backed Raul Labrador to the conservative black Southerner Tim Scott to the Northeast Republican Marilinda Garcia or the great back story of a Mia Love. With the 2014 primary season almost over, it was encouraging to see the number of minority and women (sometimes both) candidates on the Republican side whether they won or lost.
When this groundwork has been laid, then it is imperative that we take the fight to liberal areas. Liberals have been fighting aggressively on conservative turf for years now. The blue states start with a decided advantage in the Electoral College. One example of their aggressiveness is their effort to turn Texas blue. If this ever happened, one could kiss the presidency good bye for Republicans. So why shouldn’t there be an equal effort to turn Minnesota or Wisconsin red? Earlier this year, Rand Paul delivered an address at Berkeley- the epicenter of Leftist activism. Although the audience did not agree with his message, they respected him for his appearance. The Leftist press begrudgingly congratulated him. We need more of that and it includes making appearances in black churches and on Spanish-language radio stations. Republicans act afraid or as if it is a lost cause and this needs to stop. I think you gain more respect by walking into the lion’s den and if you persuade one or two of 1,000 people, that is still better than zero.
One thing the Democrats are good at is forming coalitions. If there is a movement or group called Latinos for Obama, why not a Latino group for the GOP person also? Coalitions engender a sense of community and a common goal. It does not need to be large, but it certainly needs to be vocal.
As I was researching some entries on the primary races, I would often go a candidate’s website as a starting point. The one thing that really frustrated me was the plethora of rhetoric and lack of specific alternatives. The GOP must articulate clear policy alternatives to those of the Democrats. We all know that Obamacare sucks and should be repealed, but how are you going to do that? More importantly, what is it going to be replaced with? We all know you are pro-life, but how are you going to decrease the number of abortions in America? We all know the tax system is confusing and full of loopholes, but how are you going to fix that? We all know America’s standing in the world has plummeted, but how are you going to restore it? One would be surprised at the number of candidates who failed to give their solutions and were content to state the obvious problems and leave it at that. Besides winning hearts, we must also win over minds.
Conversely, highlight the policies that have worked. In 2012, Romney ran away from his health care reform efforts while Governor of Massachusetts. His explanation- what happened there won’t work nationally- came way too late in the game. By then, Obama had framed that conversation. Despite what the Democrats say about the Bush tax cuts, median household income increased almost 25% in his tenure, certainly more than the meager increases under Obama. If it works and more importantly if it appears to work on the personal level, then use it. The policies of Scott Walker in Wisconsin are another example. Although the Left railed and marched in the streets, he set Wisconsin on the right fiscal course and the state is better because of it.
Equally important, although the goal is to woo minority voters, one should not lose sight of your core voters. Mitt Romney easily won the white vote and white voters still make up a majority of the electorate. Pandering or the appearance of pandering to the minority voters will simply turn off the white voter and chances are the minority voter will vote Democratic any way.
Finally and most importantly is that the Republican Party does not compromise some basic principles. Of course, one has to define them first. A corollary of this is that they must show how those basic principles are relevant to all people. From every poll I have seen, the concerns of the white voter are also the concerns of black and Hispanic voters with some slight variations. With education reform, a portable voucher that can be used to educate a child in public, private or parochial school would likely garner support. They- the voters- achieve an ownership stake in the success of that education. Why should a black or Hispanic child be denied that which rich white kids take as a birthright? Why are teacher unions so adamantly against the competition? Don’t act afraid of teacher unions since their goals are sometimes are at odds with those of educational outcomes. Tell it like it is or, more importantly, like it should be.
Right to work laws, which are also opposed by unions, are a greater means to increase minority employment than hand outs and preferential treatment disguised as affirmative action. And keeping more of what you earn should clearly be a core principle. Are black communities made safer when liberal judges release violent offenders and drug dealers back into those communities? Urban renewal projects have decimated inner city black communities through gentrification. Ownership of homes and businesses is another winning message as is laying the sound fiscal groundwork for ownership.
I know this can be done. A good friend of mine- a hard core Hispanic Democrat- once told me: “I’ll give you one thing; you Republicans have your s$#! together on the fiscal issues.” This was a hard core liberal Democratic Latino. There are many more out there who believe the GOP has the fiscal issues nailed down. Now use it!