At this year’s CPAC convention, this popular gathering of conservative voices heard many battle cries. Within the battle cries for unity, there was, as Andrew Breitbart described, a “dog whistle” blown. It is a cry that has been heard before for several years. Leaders emphasized the need to extend grassroots outreach to minorities, particularly Blacks and Latinos.
According to the latest U. S. Census report, more than 50 million Hispanics call America home. This accounts for one-sixth of the total population. Blacks account for almost 12 percent of the population. In 11 key battleground voting areas, minority youth are now the majority—of which 17 percent are from mixed-race families. By2042, it is projected that the minority will be the majority. Yet, during the last decade of election cycles, the Republican votes have decreased by approximately 10 percent with Hispanics . Most strategist believe it will be impossible to compete in the 2012 Presidential election without at least 40 percent minority support based on these latest numbers. The voters’ demographic and Congressional districts are changing before our eyes.
These numbers could not have been more reflected than the 2008 Presidential election. Pew research indicated a 70/30 Hispanic voter split favoring the Democratic party for executive office and a 60/40 split for Congress. 95 percent of Black voters cast their ballots for Obama in 2008. These numbers should scare the GOP. Indeed, it has made them proactive. However, the result isn’t to connecting; it is fear-mongering. Granted, many of the fear-mongering can be attributed to fallacies spewed by the Democratic party about Republicans, but there has not been much done to set the record straight. To the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, the tactic maybe to ignore these communities because they are not convinced they would vote straight Republican. While Democrats would convince you Republicans would go out of their way to halt the Black vote, the Republican response has been to (seemingly) not encourage it. The Southern strategy, as some call it, has been lightly veiled in poorly coded verbiage throughout this election cycle. In large delegate states, it may be a detriment in the general election.
Other GOP leaders have decided to take a more direct approach by going into these communities and informing them of how Republican economic policies and core, conservative values mirror what works best in allowing those communities to thrive. The GOP has heard this message before time and again. Each election cycle, we hear much talk about what will be done to reach urban and minority voters. The key to outreach is allowing others to connect with your message. This requires identifiable, well-qualified faces in leadership positions. Though there are a few shell organizations here and there whose mission is to bridge this gap, the effectiveness of these organizations can be seen by the results (or, in this case, lack there of).
The success of these organizations are heavily contingent upon their leadership. The minority ambassadors for the Republicans to Hispanics are impressive. Marco Rubio appeals to a large and varied audience. Republican Presidential candidate,Mitt Romney’s family has a long history of missionary service within Latin America. The Latino National Republican Coalition also does direct, grassroots outreach and organizing for Hispanics around the country successfully.
On the other hand, some Black Republican Councils merely serve as networking events with other black conservatives. Often, the leaders are jockeying for appointed positions within the party and take no true interest in outreach initiatives. It is merely another affiliation to place on their resume. Instead, they safely preach to the choir. They seemingly care more to safeguard their perceived status. Outreach and membership growth is not a priority.
The GOP ambassadors to the black community leave much to be desired. Black conservatism has risen by at least 10 percent from 2004 to 2008. By many accounts, the numbers may be far greater. However, minstrel politics with Amos and Andy style shucking and jiving for the very audience, (conservative WASPS) who will already vote Republican creates myths and deep disdain from black voters. While the black experience is not one unified experience, the Black community would appreciate being approach with respect. Instead, Blacks see polarizing figures who come across as if they are completely disconnected from Black American culture and the Black American voter. This is not about using The King’s English or dressing properly. This is about having a person look at you, hear what you say and try to connect with you on a human level. With GOP Black ambassadors, this is a missing ingredient.The GOP continues to present the “untouchable overachiever”. The reason why Obama did so well with everyone, not just the black community, is because he is the seen as the “brotha done good.” He is portrayed as the smart guy who cares about all people. It is difficult to see where any of the high-profile Black Republican ambassadors have this same urban appeal with a conservative twist.
Will the GOP FINALLY listen? Will the GOP truly do the work necessary to empower all communities by simply doing the grassroots outreach work? Ironically, some have done so and it isn’t from where one might expect. The Tea party, after having voted in the highest number of black representatives into Congress since reconstruction, has openly put forth a strategy for minority outreach. These events will occur in places such as Texas, Atlanta and Virginia in the coming months. Often accused of racism, The Tea Party is actually quite diverse. There is not just one Tea Party, with one message. They have many messages. Those messages go beyond race and ethnicity. The one that resonates with most is taxation and economic policy. In most cases, The Tea Party recognizes that the face and brand of the party needs to be re-tooled if the values they hold dear are to survive in a political environment. If all factions the GOP are not on one accord and truly perform minority outreach, we will read about this crucial time in books published years later and realize we watched the demise of the Republican Party.
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