Friday, December 3, 2010

Republicans and minority voters

Originally published in The Mac Weekly. 

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The "Liberal Sheep Response for America," in last week’s Mac Weekly, disputed the GOP’s growing embrace of minority voters. The article also gives us an opportunity to look at diversity here at home.

The math portion of Freedman’s piece is relatively pointless. If anybody has taken statistics, they will know that it is easy to make numbers tell whatever story you want to tell. So Mr. Freedman can point out that the number of minority GOP lawmakers in the House has only increased by 2% (the previous letter was slightly off in its math) and has remained static in the Senate. I can point out that the number of minority Republican GOP Governors has increased from 4.3% to 14.3%, a substantial 10-point swing. Numbers do not lie, but it is too easy to frame them in a convenient manner.

The more useful part of the back and forth going on is the GOP’s relationship to minority voters. As a Republican from Texas, I will be the first to admit that we have a lot of work to do in this department. My party has gotten better at running candidates of color, but the grassroots support among African Americans, Native Americans, and to a lesser extent Hispanic voters is a difficult obstacle to surmount.

Nevertheless, signs are emerging that the GOP is on the road to creating a viable alternative to the Democratic Party for these constituencies. For example, few lawmakers elected to support Proposition 19 in California, the “legalize pot” measure. One man who did actively campaign for the proposition was former Governor Gary Johnson, a Republican from New Mexico who many believe will run for President in 2012. He was joined in supporting this proposition by the California NAACP, which in its endorsement acknowledged the disproportionate pressure of the Drug War upon African American communities. Similarly, Kentucky Democrat Jack Conway repeatedly lambasted Senator-elect Rand Paul for his ‘weak’ stance on funding the War on Drugs during the recent midterm elections.

Too often, Americans of all ideologies write off those with whom they harbor disagreements. At Macalester, Republicans are often left to the role of a curiosity, something to be studied and understood but lacking any serious contribution to political discourse. Similarly, Republican candidates all too often ignore minority constituencies as reflexively Democratic groups. Nevertheless, when we do cross that divide we can find common solutions that were perhaps never anticipated. I hope we can all get past this war between “Macalester’s sheep-like students” and a “dejected cartoon super villain” and find some mutual ground.

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