Social Issues Wont Win Minorities For Gop

March 1st, 2009 at 10:17 pm | 16 Comments |

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As a transplanted Californian living in Virginia, I have kept one eye open the past few weeks on the goings on in my old home state.  While most of the media focused on the tax increases shepherded through the state legislature with the help of State Senator Abel Maldonado (who essentially traded his vote in favor of a chance for California to implement a Louisiana style jungle primary), the California Republican convention took place last weekend in Sacramento.

Among the topics discussed by attendees at the convention was the future of the party and its ability to outreach to minorities and younger voters.  While some, such as State Senator Tony Strickland sounded the old “it’s not the issues, it’s how we communicate the issues” meme; others such as California Republican strategist Wayne Johnson argued that the future lay in an alliance with African-American and Latino voters over charter schools and gay marriage bans. 

Frankly, basing the future of the Republican Party’s outreach to blacks and Hispanics on gay marriage is not, as Mr. Johnson suggested, “the future.” 

Let’s look at the black vote first, and put aside whether or not large portions of an ethnic group with a median income that is barely over half of that of white Americans (and shows historical antipathy to the GOP) could be swung on moral issues. 

First of all, while it is true that blacks came out very heavily in favor of Proposition 8 (70 percent), they also had no problem voting heavily for President Obama (McCain only winning 5 percent).  On the issue of Proposition 8, Obama made it very clear during the campaign that he opposed it; McCain made it just as clear that he favored it.  As of now, there is simply no evidence that this issue has the potential to move significant numbers of black voters into the red column.  Even if it did, younger African-Americans are somewhat more likely to embrace gay marriage than their elders.  According to a 2007 study by the University of Chicago, 58 percent of black youth were opposed to same-sex marriage.

As for forging an electoral coalition with Latinos over gay marriage, this seems far less likely.  Whites and Hispanics had little difference in their support for Proposition 8 (49 percent for whites, 53 percent for Latinos), and the Chicago study indicates that younger voters in both groups are moving away from opposing same-sex marriage at the same pace (35 percent of whites and 36 percent of Hispanics). 

For years, conservatives have entertained this fantasy that the GOP could woo over ethnic minorities by appealing to “religious” or “cultural” values, particularly on the issue of gay marriage, without having to change any other aspects of the pachyderm appeal.  This is an urban legend to retire to the Snopes page.  In recent years, Hispanics have very conclusively shown that their political allegiance is tied to other issues, particularly immigration (it would be foolhardy not to note that the last two extremely successful Republican candidates to win Hispanics at a national level, Reagan and George W. Bush, both openly supported some form of amnesty).  Successful Republicans who have won the black vote, such as Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, did so by engaging in a constant, heart-felt dialogue with black groups and churches, and addressing the poverty question head-on.  As he once noted to an audience at an event I attended, he came at the issue from the angle “Just because you were born in a crummy neighborhood doesn’t mean your children have to go to a crummy school.” (In this sense, perhaps half of Mr. Johnson’s observation, regarding GOP support for urban charter schools, shows more promise.)

The election of Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee seems to have turned a new page in direct dialogue and communication between the increasingly white Republican Party and the rest of an increasingly browning nation.  Let’s hope this means that Republicans will look to innovative ideas and commitments as the way to bring minorities in the new majority, and not by simply bringing the culture wars to minority churches.

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • sinz54

    The GOP can never hope to win a large share of the black vote; that’s a lost cause. The Hispanic vote, OTOH, is winnable; but only with difficulty, as I will explain in another post.) The reason that blacks vote for the Dems in overwhelming numbers, is that the Dems were the party that gave them affirmative action. While the GOP properly opposes affirmative action because it substitutes group rights for individual rights, blacks look upon affirmative action as their ticket into the middle and upper classes. Many of today’s upscale and middle-class blacks benefited from affirmative action, including probably Mr. and Mrs. Obama. And they are grateful for it. Yet the GOP can never endorse affirmative action without running counter to its basic principles. So for now at least, the GOP will have to write off the black vote. Sorry, Mr. Steele.

  • sinz54

    The GOP stands a better chance with Hispanics than it does with blacks. First of all, George W. Bush is an “existence proof” that a conservative Republican can win up to 40% of the Hispanic vote. Hispanic-Americans are not only socially conservative, but (unlike blacks) they are receptive to a GOP message of individual economic opportunity. But Bush’s score was a high water mark. The reason why the GOP has now lost many of those Hispanics, is because of the highly visible and highly vocal nativists within the GOP. These nativists, led by such as Tom Tancredo and Michelle Malkin, want all illegal aliens (who are nearly all Hispanics) just deported, period. They call them an “invasion” (implying that they are an enemy of America). And they go out of their way to publish horror stories about terrible things that illegals did while they were here, with ugly racialist stereotypes (they get drunk a lot, they have a zillion babies, they will outvote the white folks, etc.). Some of them have embraced even wilder fantasies about “Aztlan” or a “North American Union,” which makes them look insane as well as nativist. And Mark Krikorian is given space on National Review to argue that America should even restrict *legal* immigration as well, on the grounds that we have too many Americans (read: too many minorities) already. Some conservatives have another fantasy–that native-born and naturalized Hispanics might actually *agree* with many of these nativist attacks on the illegals, and support Michelle Malkin’s efforts to get rid of the illegals! Let me tell you, that’s a real fantasy (though Malkin can always trot out one or two token Hispanics who will support her). What every minority group throughout history has ever wanted is to increase its clout. And the main way to increase clout in a democracy is to increase numbers. The idea that Hispanics who are already here won’t want any more Hispanics to come here is a fantasy. (If Mark Krikorian had his way, Hispanics would have trouble even coming to America legally.) Hispanics know they are a fast-growing voting bloc in America, and they want to keep it that way, increasing their clout, particularly in the Southwest. The GOP has a real decision to make here: Does it want to appear nativist and lose the Hispanic vote, or does it want to reach out to Hispanics and risk alienating the nativist part of the GOP base (which now includes much of the right-wing blogosphere)? This has to be handled deftly; else it could split the GOP badly, as we saw with the debate over Bush’s immigration bill in 2007.

  • Chekote

    Sinz. Great analysis. I think the mistake Bush made was in going after a comprehensive approach insted of first focusing on securing the borders (i.e., stop the bleeding) before addressing the people already here. There was a feeling that a repeat of 1987 would happens. Amnesty and still porous borders.

  • Principal Chair

    You may be right that moral issues won’t win them, but it’s not true that they’re irrelevant either. They will prove to be important building blocks toward a broader political value proposition for minority groups. This is the right discussion to be having, but don’t resort to overly simplified answers.

  • E. Goldstein

    What are these inovative ideas? So far all I see from the new conservatism is support your local Democrat. What is this new policy?

  • sinz54

    Chekote: I agree that Bush should have tried to “stop the bleeding,” but I very much doubt that the borders, thousands of miles long, can ever be secured to the point that no one can get through. We can’t even stop illicit drugs from getting through. The only way to stop illegals from coming here is to take away their financial incentive. That means cracking down on employers who employ illegal alien labor. If Bush had simply thrown in jail any CEO whose company was caught employing illegal aliens, the problem would have eased swiftly. Unfortunately, agribusiness is a big employer of illegal aliens (lots of ICE raids occur there), and agribusiness has been a big contributor to GOP political campaigns. Bush wasn’t about to toss the CEO of ADM in jail. The GOP must build a huge Internet-based viral network to get lots of campaign cash from individuals, as Obama did. That’s the only way to reduce GOP dependence on corporate welfare recipients like ADM.

  • sinz54

    E. Goldstein: One thing that the GOP has to do, is to assiduously woo minorities 365 days a year, not just when there’s an election coming up. As governor of Texas, Bush did that with Hispanics–and it paid off for him. The only time we see a Republican presidential candidate campaigning among blacks is during an election year, when he makes his one obligatory pilgrimage to address the NAACP annual conference. He tells them that he’s “very interested in the black vote,” which is a lie, and everybody there knows it’s a lie. Then he walks out again, and that’s that. If the GOP is truly serious about wooing Hispanics, then it should be starting right now, this week. Chekote and I are in agreement on reducing the number of illegals coming into the country, though we disagree on how to do it. But once an illegal is *already here*, we should treat him with compassion. Unlike radical Islamists, he’s not coming here to terrorize the nation; he’s coming here to find work. If he’s willing to learn English and become part of America, we should welcome him. He’s already demonstrated a willingness to work hard even at low pay; that puts him on a higher moral plane that some native-born Americans.

  • sw

    I agree. We need to talk about money matters, cutting gov’t, and defending this country. That’s what being Republican means … not applying a hysterical litmus test and screeching abouty marriage/abortion/music, movies & TV. Even the most intelligent Republican (think Wm. F. Buckley) sounds moronic when he or she descends to the “culture war” level. We are too smart for this.

  • Rhampton

    When Limbaugh or the GOP hyperventilates about the evils of multi-culturalism and the destruction of traditions, how does that play with African-American and Latinos? I don’t have the research, but my hunch is that they feel like they’re being talked about in not-so-subtle code. Furthermore, my hunch is that more than a sizable minority of the GOP really is talking in not-so-subtle code.

  • Michael INdy

    Rhampton: the evils of multi-culturalism and the destruction of traditions have negatively affected African-Americans and Latinos far more so than said evils have affected the rest of society. Nevertheless, I’m sure hyperventilating about it doesn’t play well. So, in order to become a New Majority, should we ignore the truth? I think not. Speaking honestly and intelligently about the subject (or any subject, for that matter) is a good thing. Should it be the linchpin of the GOP’s strategy for winning greater support? No. Economics will always be more important. But, neither should such evils be ignored.

  • realconservativ

    New Majority is rapidly becoming the voice of the unknown RINOs. For the sake of the GOP, let’s hope they remain unknown.

  • Rhampton

    Michael INdy – I would bet that many African-American and Latinos really like some of the “evils” of multi-culturalism (like tolerance) and dislike some of the “good” in tradition (like white Anglo-Saxon Protestant control of society). That’s why the GOP represented by Limbaugh and others faces marginalization.

  • Michael INdy

    Rhampton: and I’ll bet that many African-American and Latinos really like some of the “evils” of conservatism (like freedom) and dislike some of the “good” in multi-culturalism (like the disintegration of the family). That’s why speaking honestly and intelligently about social issues is a good thing and a net positive for the GOP. Are such issues going to “win” minorities for the GOP? No, I think not. But, honesty will help in the long run.

  • 24AheadDotCom

    Zac Morgan writes: “Hispanics have very conclusively shown that their political allegiance is tied to other issues, particularly immigration”

    1. According to Pew, when they weren’t given a series of choices, only 6% of Hispanics named immigration as influencing their vote.

    2. It would seem to be a losing position for the GOP to give even more power to far-left and racial power groups, yet that’s what N-a-d-l-e-r Zac Morgan would do. “Reform” would give groups like the NCLR a terrible amount of power, and they’d use that to push for more immigration and more power.

    3. “Reform” would also give even more power inside the U.S. to the Mexicangovernment, and they’d do the same thing the NCLR would do.

    Opposing “reform” isn’t just the best solution for the GOP, it’s the American choice.

    Visit my site and subscribe to my feed to find out all the things N-a-d-l-e-r Zac Morgan don’t understand.

  • 24AheadDotCom

    Here’s what Zac Morgan wants to enable:

    Note that Gutierrez doesn’t say anything out of the ordinary for dozens of people like that, it’s just a recent example of the type of people that Zac Morgan would give even more power to.

    (Also: the GALEO group mentioned at the end is linked to a former Mexican consul general who now agitates *inside the U.S.* to give illegal aliens additional rights. That’s someone Zac Morgan would help obtain even more power.)

  • ZacMorgan

    First of all, thanks to all who have commented.

    A few quick responses…I believe that sinz has correctly articulated the problems with how the GOP has dealt with the minority vote the past few years (one trip to the NAACP, the xenophobic tenor of some on the immigration debate).

    And re: Latinos and illegal immigration, here’s a quote from a Pew study in 2007: Immigration has become a more important issue to Latinos since the last election. Some 79% of Hispanic registered voters now say it is an “extremely” or “very” important issue in the upcoming presidential race; up from 63% who said the same thing in June 2004. Immigration still ranks behind education, health care, the economy and crime, but it is the only issue that has risen so sharply in importance since 2004.

    Once more, thanks all for reading!