Fixing the Republican Party's minority problem

Unless Republicans step up their game -- and soon, we may as well start calling Mrs. Clinton "Madame President".

Even without an African-American at the top of the Democrat ticket to drive minority turnout in 2016, the conditions that re-elected President Obama will still be in play.

The problem won't go away. And it can't be fixed unless it is first understood.

Mitt Romney and scores of local Republican candidates were doomed last year not by a clever mobile turnout app but by early-voting laws in the key states of Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa. In some cases these statutes were enacted, ironically (some would say foolishly), by Republican-dominated legislatures.

The effect was to extend the Democrats' election-day voter-turnout drive from one day to one month or more. The result was elevated turnout among poor and minority-group voters. And it hastened the arrival of the demographic day of reckoning that many of us knew was coming:

We're outnumbered.

The solidly-Democrat nonwhite share of the vote has more than doubled from 13 percent in 1984 to 28 percent in 2012. It continues to rise, as former Bush adviser Karl Rove points out in his June 26, 2013 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Simply turning out more white voters won't do the trick:

"To have prevailed over Mr. Obama in the electoral count, Mr. Romney would have had to carry 62.54% of white voters. That's a tall order, given that Ronald Reagan received 63% of the white vote in his 1984 victory".

Rove concludes, "Republicans must now do two things: turn out more white voters and improve their performance among Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans."

But how?

Most Hispanic, Black and Asian voters pull the Democrat lever for the same reason most whites vote Republican: they started out that way. Political affiliation is part of one's family, cultural, community and in some cases, religious identity. Switching allegiance means abandoning that identity. Which means it's not an easy sale. It will take not months or years but a generation. Or two.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, upwardly-mobile minorities are Republicans; they just don't know it yet.

Republicans must look to history and learn from the "Southern Strategy" of the late 1960s.

The plan was simple: organize in the southern communities, which usually meant the Baptist churches, and demonstrate to conservative southern Democrats that the Republicans shared their views. Official Democrats called the movement racist, but only because it worked. By the mid-90s hundreds of elected county officials had defected to the GOP.

Here are the important lessons:

Can the Republicans wait that long?

Yes, as long as the GOP establishes a long-term institutional commitment. Now. The Republicans cannot remain viable by sustaining four-to-one losses among a voter bloc that is 28 percent and growing.

Here's how to start:

  1. Learn from Sid Dinerstein, who was chairman of the Palm Beach County GOP for eight years. He clearly understands both the problem and the solution.

  2. Organize in the minority precincts, starting with the more affluent. (That's where the new voters are.) The days of ignoring these areas are over.

  3. Use the existing micro-targeting and social-media tools to identify persuadable voters, based on any number of factors. Most importantly, share this information with candidates.

  4. Retool your organization into a voter-ID and turnout machine. It's the surest way to turn candidates into officeholders.

  5. Embrace early voting. Sure it's a boon to Democrats but it's here to stay. Learn to excel.

  6. Run the GOP as a party, not a club. Don't meddle in primaries -- they're your single greatest source of new volunteers and donors, and you need all the help and money you can get. Make peace with the tea-partiers -- they're your best customers.

By instituting these changes the Republicans will arrest the slide and eventually become competitive in some minority communities. Losing this fight means losing, literally, the keys to the Republic.

Anyone worried about the ruinous debt and economic malaise we're leaving for the next generation should be worried about the health of the GOP.

The Democrats will remain institutionally yoked to the agents of Big Government: the left, unions, teachers and personal-injury lawyers. Because the two-party system is embedded in the laws of most states, the solutions will come only from politicians of the Republican Party.

Or else from no one at all.



Joe Curran has been variously involved in Republican politics as a campaigner, aide and party official.