America / Culture / Politics / Presidential Race 2012 / U.S. Domestic Policy

The Minority Report: Rectifying the GOP’s Struggles with Minorities

 “When Newt dropped out of the race and Mitt Romney became the nominee, we decided to support Mitt Romney,” said a statement by Café Con Leche, a Republican organization that favors comprehensive immigration reform. “Numerous attempts to connect with the Romney campaign’s Hispanic outreach proved fruitless. In our one year of existence, we’ve also had just one conversation with the RNC’s Latino outreach, and were left with the impression the RNC wasn’t interested in working with us due to our pro-immigration focus.”

 The ineptitude of the Romney campaign, led by the now highly criticized Stuart Stevens, and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to reach out to Latinos and minorities in general is highlighted by the statement above. The Republican Party will always have a bastion of support amongst white voters, but the party must adjust to the changing demographics of the United States or it will continue to struggle to attract minority voters. According to CNN’s exit polls, 93% of African American, 71% of Latino, 73% of Asian American, and 58% of other minority voters voted for Barack Obama. In contrast, just 6% of African American, 27% of Latino, 26% of Asian American, and 38% of other minority voters voted for Romney.

While white voters continue to be the majority of the electorate, the surge in minority voters should give pause to the Republican leadership and should be a sobering reminder of how miserable the party has been in its minority outreach attempts. In the 2012 presidential election, ethnic minority voters comprised 28% of the total electorate, a small increase from the 2008 election. As the largest percentage of the minority-voting bloc, African Americans have received tremendous electoral attentions from both parties in past elections. Despite having African Americans in party leadership positions, such as former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Republican Party has seemingly always struggled to attract African American voters, perhaps hindered by the perception that the Republican party is largely white. Nevertheless, despite the significant disparity between GOP and Democratic African American support, which has been exacerbated in the past two elections, the GOP overcame the difference and did well in past elections.

However, the Republican Party has lost 5 out of the last 6 popular votes and that, I believe, is due to the rise of other minority populations. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the 52 million Latinos living in the United States make up almost 17% of the total American population. In addition, the number of eligible Hispanic voters over the last 20 years has grown from 8.3 million in 1992 to 14.5 million in 2002 to 23.7 million in 2012, which is roughly 11% of the electorate. Furthermore, according to a Pew Research Center report, the Asian American population is booming as well. From 2000 to 2010, the last two census years, the Asian American population grew 46%. The number of Asian Americans living in the United States currently is roughly 17.3 million, 6% of the total population. While much smaller than the African American and Latino populations, the increasing Asian American population should be another sign that the GOP needs to improve its minority outreach efforts.

In order to rectify the issue, two steps should be taken. First, the RNC needs to formulate and conduct a dramatic public relations campaign to shatter the stereotype that the GOP is mainly white and to highlight the reasons why the GOP is best for minorities, hitting on the tenants of the party that best align with each group. In this campaign, successful politicians like Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, a Mexican American Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, an Indian American, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, an Indian American as well, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban American to provide evidence of the party’s diversity. The biggest barrier for the Republicans to break through is the perception that the party is anti-minority and anti-immigrant. With a properly conducted campaign, the GOP can try to shift the image of the party to one that is friendlier towards minorities. So far, the image has been dominated by caustic rhetoric and harsh actions, such as Arizona’s immigration law.

Second, the RNC needs to reach out to Republican minority organizations, such as the Hispanic Leadership Network. By doing so, the RNC would extend its reach into local communities and illustrate its commitment to build relationships with and to courting the minority vote. Part of the Obama campaign’s success with minorities has been its community-level efforts with various minority groups. It was then able to use those efforts to get minority voters to the polls. While it may be a while before the GOP will see the benefits of such subtle approaches, it needs to start now if it is to improve in the future. Otherwise, the Democrats will continue to attract massive amounts of minority voters and that will be devastating for the Republican Party.

If the GOP does not change its outreach to minority voters, it will be deluding itself to the reality of the situation and it will be depriving itself of an opportunity to expand and diversify its electorate, which in turn will affect election outcomes.