“I look at it this way, this is a two-way street. It is as much about what the opportunities that are afforded to African Americans are as it is what we afford ourselves.” – Michael Steele, Chair, Republican National Committee, 2009-11.
How is the presence of Latino and black candidates in the Republican Party explained, a party largely viewed by minorities to be hostile to their interests? Despite a wide chasm between minorities and the GOP, there have always been a select few minorities that hold office within the party.
Yet the GOP has a long historical relationship with the black community that Steele points to as an abandoned relationship. “We know Daddy King was a Republican. The NAACP, co-founded by Republicans back in 1909, has chastised our party for breaking that link quite frankly and abandoning the opportunities to reconnect and rebuild along not just the social conservative lines, but tapping into that entrepreneurial spirit…” If political participation is not only about people going to politics, but politics going to people, then in this sense, the GOP has been negligent. Matt Barreto, Assoc. Prof., Political Science,Univ. of Washington, says of today’s GOP, “They’re not concerned about African-Americans at all.”
But where the GOP has fallen short with African-Americans, it is clear that if the same happens with Latinos it is sure to create an insurmountable barrier to success at the national level ever again. Currently several prominent Latino leaders in the GOP such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Governor Sandoval of Nevada and Governor Martinez from New Mexico may help fertilize growth within the party among Latinos as they mature within the political system. If the GOP should decide to soften its tone on issues such as immigration it remains unclear whether Latinos will maintain the same long-term relationship with Democrats as African Americans have done.
- Will the GOP change its tone and platform vis-à-vis immigration in an effort to win over Latinos, an increasingly sizeable and important segment of the American electorate?
- Will blacks continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, or will the GOP find a way to attract them back to the levels the party enjoyed in the 1940s and 50s?