election neared last year and it became clear that Republican presidential
nominee Mitt Romney could not possibly win without more Latino support than he
had so far earned, the national GOP made a symbolic move.
party hired Bettina Inclan, once an Arnold Schwarzenegger operative in
California, to spearhead outreach to Hispanic voters. There was never a
moment’s talk about changing Romney’s approach on issues of big interest to
Latinos – things like immigration and health care. The supposed outreach effort
ended in utter failure, as Democrat Barack Obama won 77 percent of the Hispanic
vote nationally and even more in California.
has done a full share of navel-staring self-analysis since then, trying to
figure out how and why it lost the White House and allowed Democrats to gain
ground in the U.S. Senate and House, when almost all analysts before the
election year began expected them to lose ground in all those areas.
GOP has figured out what to do about its poor performance: Put on some new
national Republican leaders met in the same Hollywood
hotel-shopping-entertainment complex that annually hosts the Academy Awards,
where one of the top Oscars goes for the best job of changing appearances
national GOP substantially echoed what the party’s new California chairman,
former state Sen. Jim Brulte, said two months earlier, just before he won his
not advocate any serious changes in party positions or platform planks, Brulte
told this column then. Rather, he listed three areas as his top priorities:
renewing Republican fund-raising operations, recruiting many more grass-roots
volunteers than the party recently has and "rebuilding the party's
bench" by recruiting candidates for legislative and local races who have a
chance to win because they "look like, sound like and share the values of
the people in their neighborhoods."
speaker after speaker at the Republican National Committee’s springtime meeting
in Hollywood told the party’s chiefs they need to be part of the communities
they’d like to represent, and not only at election time; that they need to
highlight areas of shared interest and that they must promote more minority and
there about making sure more of the minority people they want to represent get
quality education and health care. Nothing about helping undocumented relatives
and friends of citizens gain legal immigration status. Immigration, especially,
is a key issue because of a finding in a recent survey from the often-reliable
Latino Decisions polling firm: about two-thirds of Latino voters are personally
acquainted with or related to at least one undocumented immigrant.
some Republican senators have lately become willing to go along with a path to
citizenship lasting 13 years or more, a course seeming so long and remote that
many immigrants view it as virtually unattainable.
that arduous path is too much for many House Republicans – often more harshly
conservative than their Senate brethren who generally serve more diverse
committee members also were unwilling to compromise on changing the party’s
after making Inclan their national director of outreach to all manner of ethnic
voters, they also hired two operatives for outreach among Asian-American and
Pacific Islander voters – two groups that, while not as numerous as Latinos,
also went Democratic by huge margins last year.
don’t ask for the order, you’re not going to get the sale,” said national
chairman Rance Priebus, in language that almost paraphrased Brulte.
no talk about changing positions, only about changing the way the party tries
to appeal to voter groups that until recently attracted virtually none of its
bottom line: Republicans are essentially telling Latinos, Asian-Americans and
others to vote for them because the GOP wants their votes. The apparent
presumption is that these voters will respond just because the GOP would like
things don’t work that way. Sure, a party has to let voters know it wants them
and likes them. But it also has to demonstrate that its candidates care about
the same things that drive those voters. To presume Latinos and Asians will be
different from all other groups and respond to mere cosmetic changes in
appearance, with no shifts in substance, is like whistling past the graveyard,
something Republicans have often done in recent years while they thought they
were reaching out.
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