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The GOP’s minority outreach delusion

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The GOP’s minority outreach delusion

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee got part of it right when he tasked a handful of worried Republicans to come up with some proposals to make the party competitive again in national elections.

There really were no surprises in the proposals they came up with. They included: embrace immigration reform, tout the economic struggles of the middle class and working class, and tweak the financial bigwigs and corporate elite for their obscene greed and malfeasance.

Then there was their jewel in the crown proposal to ramp up efforts to woo blacks, Latinos, Asians and gays. That came complete with the claim that the party will put its money where its mouth is and spend millions running around the country talking and listening to minorities on the issues and presumably show that the GOP ‘cares’ about them too.

The only problem with this scenario is it is pure delusion.

The majority of Hispanic voters, for instance, are wedded to the Democratic Party, not because GOP ultra conservatives have been opponents of immigration reform, but because these voters correctly perceive that the Democrats will protect and fight for their economic interests, while the GOP does just the opposite.

In fact, the GOP is not just seen as the enemy of their interests; its relentless assault on health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, its efforts to eliminate dozens of programs that directly benefit the poor and working class, and its assault on health care reform have clearly marked it as the enemy of their interests.

Despite the RNC’s lip service proposal to go after corporate crooks, few minorities really believe that the GOP could possibly mean that — given its lockstep relation with, dependence on and unswerving shill for corporate and financial fat cats. This isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of Democrats who shill for corporate and financial interests. But the Democrats at least balance that by emphasizing the role and importance of government in protecting the interests of minorities and working persons. In exit polls following the 2008 presidential election and in follow-up polls and surveys, voters were asked whether they thought government or private business did the best at solving the country’s pressing economic problems. The overwhelming majority of Hispanics gave the government the nod. Poll results would not be much different for the majority of African American and Asian voters, as well as working persons who depend on the very government services, programs and entitlements that the GOP wages war against.

Then there’s the other problem that the RNC would have, even if it meant every word about pushing to make diversity a reality in the party. The problem is its own party, or more particularly, the millions of GOP backers in the South and Heartland, and the gaggle of right-wing webs, blogs, and talk radio jocks who think the GOP’s only flub is that it’s not truly conservative enough.

They have convinced the GOP that any retreat from its core beliefs and message will doom it to political has-been status in national politics. They warn that if the GOP suddenly starts pandering to minorities and gays, it can kiss millions of fervent supporters goodbye. Indeed, many who didn’t think Republican presidential contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney were authentically conservative enough for their tastes did stay home in 2008, and to an extent in 2012.

It was evident even in the wake of the 2012 defeat, when a parade of GOP hardliners wailed that Romney and GOP candidates lost because they weren’t conservative enough, or their self-inflicted gaffe wounds did them in. They denounced any talk from the GOP party leaders of re-messaging, mounting an aggressive outreach to minorities and reversing their stance on immigration, and they won’t let up on that.

There’s a well-worn history for this. Every conservative GOP candidate since Barry Goldwater’s loss to LBJ in 1964 has spouted a hard conservative line in the primaries, and then moved to the center when they want to win.

Romney much too belatedly did the same. He softened his positions on immigration, was silent on gay marriage, soft pedaled his touted cuts of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and did a photo-op at a black inner-city charter school. If he hadn’t done that, he would have come close to being the Goldwater of 2012. It would have been an Obama landslide.

Even if Romney had won, the 2012 election would likely have been the last national election in which a GOP white male candidate could’ve won by relying primarily on conservative white males, and rural and outer suburban white voters.

The RNC understands that, and is trying to do something about it at least verbally. But millions like the GOP just the way it once was, and their bull-headedness virtually renders the GOP’s minority outreach campaign little more than a delusion.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.