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Three Ways the GOP Could Be Vastly Better on Race Relations

September 11, 2019
Three Ways the GOP Could Be Vastly Better on Race Relations
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Trump moment in the GOP won’t last forever. Really. There will be a GOP after the cult of personality ends, and Republicans will have to decide on what that party will look like and try to accomplish. It’s vital that this soul-searching include a candid look at racial politics.

There’s literally one black senator who is a Republican. The two Latinos, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, are both Cuban, a historically Republican voting block that is rapidly turning away from the GOP.  No other group of Latinos afford the GOP a majority share of support. Women and minority legislators and voters are retiring or leaving the party in record droves. The Trump administration itself realizes this, and is putting serious effort into recruiting minorities and women to run for office. The obvious problem is that they’re asking people to run under the Trump banner.

The question that any white Republican should ask is: Why would any minority voter want to align with a party that failed to stamp out birtherism, couldn’t recognize Black Lives Matter without caveating that “All Lives Matter,” whose members chant “send her back” to minority members of Congress? Where’s the appeal in a movement that downplays its rising white nationlism, that tolerates locking up Latino children in cages and engages in other textbook racist behaviors and dog whistles?

Conservatives seem resigned to have the GOP be a white identity politics party, yielding almost every demographic that is not “white” and “over the age of 55.” This obviously diminishes the party’s ability to advance policy ideas and initiatives. If this trend snowballs, it would leave a GOP whose policies are based on stoking  racial animus, instead of working to advance important causes such as paying down our debt and long term stability for the country. This would also prevent our citizens to come together to heal our wounds as a country and work towards our historical goal of being a true melting pot where race, religion, sex, etc. didn’t matter as long as one worked hard.

If conservatives wish to return to a day where hard work matters more than one’s race, religion, gender or other trait, there are some steps they could take on race and civil rights.

Stamp Out Systemic Racism in the Legal System

A lot of conservatives don’t believe in systemic racism. After all, we passed civil rights legislation in the 1960s, and we have affirmation action and laws that prevent discrimination in housing and the workplace and elsewhere. And yet, conservatives also believe that that our legal system is inefficient and full of redundancies and contradictions. So is it a stretch to believe that we have plenty of laws lost to time that make life more difficult for people of color? Instead of defending gerrymandering laws by saying “the other side does it” or being “tough on crime” instead of acknowledging that our criminal justice system has failed minorities, conservatives could meet with minority leaders in local communities around the nation to both gain a new perspective and understand what changes we could make at different levels of government to help level the playing field.

Taking the time to work together to stamp out racist laws is a lot of work but the return on the investment could be worth it several times over. 

Engage with Minorities 

A lot of conservatives think that Democrats have brainwashed these groups into voting for them, and that diversity of opinion and policy is just as important, if not more important than racial diversity, so … why bother? Another contingent think the issue is that Trump has simply made conservative policies toxic due to his racial language and once he leaves, minorities will comeback. As a result, many grassroots conservatives think that they just need to do a better job of selling conservative policy to minorities

Some of the branding issues might certainly be true. But what if the issue is that conservatives just aren’t listening to the policy changes that minority communities want? For instance, many voters, especially women, want modest gun reform, rather than a full repeal of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, even small measures with overwhelming public support, have been non-starters in conservative circles.

Once upon a time, I worked  on a gubernatorial campaign, assigned to canvass downtown Dallas. When it came time to head to “majority minority” neighborhoods, many of my volunteers refused to help because “they didn’t feel safe.” Often, I would head to these neighborhoods on my own, to ask what issues mattered most to them. In some cases, I was the first Republican to even visit a household in 20 years. These voters were right there in the heart of Texas, yet the county GOP hadn’t even attempted to ask these voters how to win their votes in decades. As much as Republicans whine about black voters not voting for them, they hadn’t done a damn thing to earn their votes.

Simply put, if you want to show minority voters you care, you actually have to care.

Kick Out the Racists

There has to be zero tolerance for racism anywhere, but especially among the conservative leadership and grassroots. There’s a strong case to be made Republicans have been ignoring it in our party for decades. If we actually care about minority voters and their needs instead of just wanting them to enhance GOP political power, there needs to be zero tolerance of racism. Period. Nods to the being the “Party of Lincoln” aren’t merely ignored these days but laughed at. The onus is on conservatives to act as moral arbiters on racial issues.

As for nationalism, some claim, “What? Nationalism isn’t inherently racist.” And sure, a nationalism based on the ideals of the American Revolution might not be so bad. However, most American conservatives have adapted European style nationalism, which is absolutely based on the ideology of “blood and soil.” Every nationalism in the world has been invariably tied to ethnonationalism, and it has given rise to the great evil nations of the 20th and 21st century. If you look back at the Nazi American Party, the KKK, Reconstruction era racism, and more, you’ll find “America First” as a notion has literally always meant an America as a white nation, rather than the immigrant-based, multiethnic society we are. We’re the first country in the world to be based on a political philosophy. Embracing American nationalism has historically been a perversion of everything our ancestors fought and died for.

America’s racial inequalities have always been a moral blight upon what should be the greatest nation on earth. Once Trump is out of office, the GOP has an immense amount of work to do to regain its good standing among Americans of all backgrounds. One of the most important things it can do is to work to end racism and show minorities there is a place for them in a new and more hopeful party.