Recently L+A published a blog on diversity representation in the Democratic Party. Today, we are looking at the GOP. After losing the presidential race in 2012, the Republican Party noted that it must increase their campaigning and hiring “among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay American(s)” in order to bolster the party’s success.
In the early stages of the 2016 presidential election, this push for diversity showed promise. The GOP started off at an all time high of diversity with candidates representing the Latino, African American and Indian-American populations. Carly Fiorina also helped bridge the gender gap. This was the year that the Republican Party had a unique opportunity to reach out to minorities as they had set out to do in 2012.
… And then Trump infamously made his comments about Mexican immigrants. The world cringed while many Americans cheered, shining light on the great divides within the US. The media conversation about the GOP turned to the topics of bigotry, racism and sexism to bolster their viewership. Bush’s interest in an open dialogue with the Latino population was belittled by the leading candidates further pushing away many potential Latino voters; polls at the end of 2015 showed that Latinos perceived an increased sense of hostility of the Republican Party towards their demographic. The continued large scale terrorism attacks in France, Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya and more exacerbated the negative rhetoric even further.
But the Republican Party is more than the showboating personalities the media has covered. In fact, at the governor and state senate levels, Republicans have better diversity statistics of their representatives than Democrats. Conversely at the federal level, in the House of Representatives, Democrats better represent minorities. The 113th Congress was the most diverse in history, but that diversity came almost exclusively courtesy of the Democratic side of the aisle; there were 42 African-American members of the House — all Democrats. The Hispanic population was comparatively less skewed, with 27 congressional Democrats and 8 Republicans. Among Asian-Americans, a return to the lopsided totals — 11 Democrats and no Republicans.
But even at the state level where Republican diversity is highest, minority Republicans struggle to win minority votes. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott are great examples of these struggles. Despite the diversity in candidates themselves, this shift has not been reflected in the constituency.
The truth is, winning the hearts of the people takes more than a few years of re-branding, or descriptive representation. When it comes to the Republican Party, party matters more than race; polls say that minorities identify race over party. Even more important for voters: substantive representation.
In order to change the constituency, it will take years of nurturing new members and re-sewing the fabric of the Party to better connect to minorities. Outreach to minority communities is an important factor, but it’s not dispositive. What counts most are ideas and policies that appeal to those communities, and an infrastructure that brings them to the polls.
“We’re still not talking about the concerns of that young black couple starting a business or that young Hispanic family… Where are our solutions to deal with incarceration reform, unemployment, the trouble blacks and Hispanics have getting home mortgages?”
– former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, who was one of two black Republicans in Congress when he entered the House of Representatives in 1995
The GOP today is too tied to orthodoxy that does not appeal to the majority of minorities. There is a need to shift from individuals supporting regulatory commitments for minorities to redefining Party policies that support minority needs.
Perhaps the 2016 election can provide insight into the constituents the Party currently has and what the party needs to do to earn trust within other communities moving forward. Although the GOP has made gains in diversity representation, it is clear that the most important aspect to improve diversity within the party is to target policies. And it wouldn’t hurt to take an active stance to define who they are as a Party beyond the individuals leading in the presidential race.
If you are interested in getting involved in the Republican Party’s diversity expansion efforts, here is a small sample of the organizations that you might get involved with:
– Libre Initiative (Latino and Spanish speaking communities)
– Committed to the Community (African-American community)
– Future Majority Project (all communities)
– African-American engagement office (African-American community)