Raynard Jackson, a registered Republican and political consultant, is president and chief executive of Raynard Jackson & Associates, a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm.
Since the moment the 2012 election was called for President Obama, media pundits and political observers have been talking about America’s shifting demographics and their impact on future national
elections. With exit polls showing that Obama was reelected largely on the turnout strength from blacks and Hispanics, it has become increasingly clear that minorities are an indispensable part of the electorate. This trend is a microcosm of the issues facing our larger society as well, especially in the media.
On Tuesday, I read with great interest this story on The Fix, The Washington Post’s political blog, that examines “How the Republican party can rebuild — in 4 not-so-easy steps.”
The story examines the soul-searching that is going on in Republican circles: “Most GOP strategists and politicians acknowledge that the 2012 election amounted to a moment of reckoning for the party — a time when Republicans finally came face to face with the demographic realities and base problems that badly jeopardize its future as a national majority party," Post writer Chris Cillizza states. “Less clear is what the party needs to do in order to reverse a slide — particularly at the presidential level — that has been in progress since the 2006 midterm elections. We put the question of how the party begins to rebuild to a handful of smart GOP operatives and aggregated their four best thoughts below.”
While the points embedded in the story all made sense, I couldn’t help but notice that none of the major African American or Hispanic Republican strategists were quoted. And that got me thinking that this is part of the problem: Very often minority strategists and pundits are left out of the conversation when talking publicly about the issues facing the GOP. And it’s not because we don’t exist. It seems like to me that any story or analysis on television, online and in our newspapers about rebranding and rebuilding the Republican Party should include the top black or Hispanic political operatives. To do a story about shifting demographics and not talk to any minorities is akin to doing a story about women’s issues and interviewing all males.
And it wasn’t just this one story. Most of the post-election media coverage about the changing demographics of this country has focused on whites talking about what the Republican Party needs to do for minorities.
I talked with former Republication National Committee chairman Michael Steele about this Tuesday and he just laughed. I asked him what the Republican Party needed to do. He laughed and said “doing what is necessary to expand the base of the Republican Party is the easy part. Getting people to commit to doing it is where the difficulty will be.”
Aaron Manaigo, former John McCain 2008 presidential campaign national director of coalitions, chimed in: “Winning in politics is about addition, not subtraction, and it is apparent from the last three presidential campaigns the Republican Party is going in the wrong direction — losing vote percentages across all minority groups.”
As George W. Bush showed, it is possible to do relatively well with blacks and Hispanics, so there is a precedent. Based on my conversations with my fellow minority operatives in the party, the consensus of what the party needs to do is:
●Stop the incendiary language coming from the party (Obama is lazy, legitimate rape, color-blind party, take our country back, reverse discrimination, etc.). The language is so incendiary that we can’t hear anything they are saying.
●Meet with minority businessmen to get their views on the economy. Typically, the Republicans never reach out to the successful businessmen in our community. They reach out to talk with blacks only if there is a perceived “black” issue involved — welfare reform, low-income housing, crime, etc.
●Define what “conservatism” means — to many blacks, it still means Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms (meanings are in people, not in words).
●Diversity must be visible at every level of the party (congressional staffs, RNC, National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, etc.).
●Party leaders must spend time with grass-roots leaders from the minority community to listen, not talk.
These are simple things that can be done immediately if the party is committed to becoming a majority party.
Learning how to deal with this issue of changing demographics is not just a political issue, but also a societal issue. This shift will necessitate a new way of thinking about politics, media and life in general.
The status quo is no longer a viable option. The survival of the Republican Party and the media will depend on how each adjusts to the changing makeup of American society.
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