Liberty Expose: The GOP and Minority Outreach

The future of the GOP is uncertain. Despite recent electoral victories in 2014 and 2016, Republicans still continue to lose miserably with minority voters. This is not a recent trend; it has been a problem accumulating over time and might render the GOP a regional party if Republicans do not take precautions to ensure that it has a home within minority communities in the future.

Recent decades have been unfavorable for Republican minority outreach. In the 1972 election, Richard Nixon earned 18 percent of the African-American vote. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump won only 8 percent of the African-American vote, which is typical for Republican presidential candidates. The trend is even more dismal for other minority groups.

Hispanics, the largest minority group in America at 17 percent of the population, have cut their support for GOP presidential candidates almost in half. In the 2004 election, George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney, in contrast, won just 27 percent. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump fared marginally better, with 29 percent of the Hispanic vote.

The greatest decline in GOP minority votes comes from the Asian-American community. In the 90’s, Republican presidential candidates could expect to earn more than 70 percent of the Asian American vote. That staggering majority began to reverse itself at the turn of the century, and in the 2012 election, Barack Obama won 73 percent of the Asian American vote – almost a complete turn-around from two decades ago.  

This trend of failure is unsustainable. The demographics of America are changing, and the electoral future is bright for Democrats. Republicans have managed to take losses with every minority group. The loss of the Asian American community is the most concerning, as that demographic is expected to overtake Hispanics as America’s largest minority group. All the while Republicans remain helpless. Democrats have been able to capitalize on this gap with great success by labeling the GOP as antagonistic to the interests to minorities, despite three candidates in the last Republican presidential primary (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson) being minorities.

As a whole, the GOP has failed to take any meaningful measures to reconcile this outlook. Which is not to say the Republicans do not think about this issue, they do, but they fail to find any solutions.

Some members of the GOP want to enact Bismarckian policies in respect to minority voters, i.e. having conservative policies, but moving to the left in areas perceived to be important to minorities voters (E.g. loosening immigration restrictions to sway Hispanic voters). They believe that the way to win minority voters is to be less Republican – a fact that alienates the conservative base and leads to situations such as Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination.

And then there is another school of thought within the GOP in regards to minority voters: treat them as normal voters, as opposed to special groups.

The irony is that the mental block established within the GOP psyche is the biggest factor preventing minority outreach. The predisposition that Republicans are incapable of winning minority votes has been disproven by GOP lawmakers that have achieved a simple strategy: actually reaching out into minority communities. Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, executed an extensive campaign of outreach into minority communities during the 2014 election cycle.

 Governor Hogan took steps to increase minority outreach by display his diverse family, as well as making an effort to canvass predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Hogan was rewarded for his efforts: he was able to win 22 percent of Baltimore, as opposed to the 16 percent won by his Republican predecessor.

Governor Hogan is not the only example. Six-term Representative Steve Pierce (R, N.M.), represents a majority-Hispanic district that borders Mexico. An impressive achievement, considering that voting districts bordering Mexico have been very favorable to Democrats. Pierce attributes his success to his resolve in outreach to the Hispanic community within his district. In the 2012 election, Representative Pierce won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Pierce attests that policies such as his publishing of his Congressional site in both English in Spanish, as well as his “small town mayor” campaigning style that values personal interaction has been pivotal.

As it turns out, Republicans don’t have to stop being Republican in order to win minority votes; they just have to make their presence known within minority comminutes. That will eliminate the perception pushed by Democrats that Republicans are either at best apathetic to minority concerns, or at worse outright racists. What is best about the thesis of community outreach is that Republicans do not have to fall into the dangerous game of playing identity politics.

Identity politics poses an existential threat to this, or any republic, and it is unsettling to watch how political parties, journalists, writers, and academics squabble to embrace what is tribalism at its highest form. However, an Aristotelian approach, as opposed to a Platonic approach must be taken: as dangerous as it is to categorize voters by race, we must acknowledge that for too many, it will be a factor, no matter how much we want it to go away.

For the GOP, there is still time to conduct minority outreach without jeopardizing the conservative philosophy that is opposed to such identity politics. Past victories have shown that if Republicans go into minority communities, and campaign as if they’re not a special voting bloc, then success can be found, and the GOP can build a new base of support.