Last week, social media had a field day with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s Cinco de Mayo post. Reactions ranged from outrage to hilarity to kudos for such an ingenious post. The last response coming from his die-hard supporters whom he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot” without losing their vote. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I admit that I did have a hearty laugh. Personally, I think he actually was trying to appeal to potential Hispanic voters but failed abysmally.
First, Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday not a day for Hispanics in general. Secondly, taco bowls are not a traditional Mexican food item. Thirdly, there is no reason to proclaim your love for “the Hispanics” because they have a national holiday. It comes across as gimmicky and will most likely be regarded as a patronizing gesture.
There were many in the Twittersphere who displayed an astonishing level of outrage. Let’s not overly complicate the hidden meaning of a taco bowl. This was just one more tone-deaf display in a campaign filled with tone-deaf displays. Trump manages to infuse paternalism and hubris (repeatedly proclaiming that all the races love him and will vote for him) into his campaign on an almost daily basis. One wonders whether these controversial statements are deliberately crafted to appeal to the racist segment of his constituency who share his (real or manufactured) view of minorities. As the expression goes, he is “crazy like a fox.”
The controversial Cinco de Mayo post did lead me to think about diversity in the context of the Republican Party. Diversity has become a liberal buzzword that conjures up thoughts of arbitrary quotas, affirmative action, preferential status, and linguistic acrobatics.
According to Merriam-Webster, diversity is “the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization.”
Whether some members of the Grand Old Party like it or not, the party must address the lack of diversity that exists in the Republican Party and work to remedy it. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.
- Let’s have an honest discussion about race.
In my experience, the average White Republican either doesn’t believe that racism-systemic or institutional-exists (because we have a Black president), downplays the issues that do exist (because they forget American history and have no personal experience), or simply doesn’t know what should be done and subsequently place the issue on the back burner. Racial tension and disparities DO exist. Acknowledging that there are inequities while balancing the role that individual responsibility and the rule of law should play is key to meaningful dialogue.
- Let’s realize that the country’s demographic makeup is changing rapidly.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, America will be a majority minority country by the year 2050. In 2015, the number of Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers for the first time. If the Republican Party wants to remain a viable institution, they must face these realities and make real, sustained efforts to demonstrate that they have solutions. The RNC has worked to hire key staffers to address minority communities but this effort concentrates on election year voter contacts. Some Members of Congress have worked to make inroads in these communities. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tim Scott (R-SC) have both made multiple addresses to Black audiences at HBCU’s and in other nontraditional settings. On the House side, there is a School Choice Caucus which seeks to empower parents whose children are relegated to failing schools because of their zip code. In February 2016, Speaker Paul Ryan introduced the Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility which produced a series of proposals. School choice efforts like the DCOSP have led to collaboration between unlikely allies from both sides of the aisle. Republican leaders must continue and expand these efforts if they expect to remain relevant.
- Let’s think outside of the proverbial box and realize that minorities aren’t a monolithic group.
One of my peeves during this election cycle has been type of issues that presidential candidates from both parties talk about when they attempt to appeal to minority voters. Minorities care about more than reducing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, criminal justice reform, expanding social programs, and income inequality. Hillary Clinton’s pandering has reached epic proportions. Between claiming to carry hot sauce in her bag and affecting a questionable accent when talking to Black audiences, her stump speeches highlight the “soft bigotry of low expectations” which pervade Democratic talking points. Conservatives should discuss bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts but the conversation should not stop there. School choice, college affordability, economic growth, and overregulation affect everyone. (I may post a separate blog with a comprehensive list of minority concerns and conservative solutions.)
- Let’s get beyond election year overtures to minorities.
It should go without saying that Republican efforts in this area must extend beyond election year get out the vote efforts. It’s a sad reality but I do think efforts to address Black community groups and churches will be much easier in a post-Obama world. The affinity the Black community has for the First Family cannot be overstated. Many struggle to differentiate between personal attacks and policy disagreements. It’s hard to address a church group when a picture of the President is on the pew fan. With that being said, conservatives should think outside of the box when they are home on district work weeks. You can’t win someone over that you have never met or interacted with in a meaningful way.
- Let’s recognize the diversity that does exist in the GOP and leverage that strength into lasting connections.
Although Republicans have a serious lack of minorities involved at the local levels, there is a small but growing number of minorities at the state and Congressional level. In Congress, there are standouts like Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler R-WA), and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). At the state level, there are Governors Susana Martinez (R-NM) and Nikki Haley (R-SC), as well as, newly elected Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton (R-KY). In the presidential race, there were Dr. Ben Carson and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. There are members of the GOP with impressive resumes, strong convictions, and compelling personal stories who have a unique platform. We can’t let the Democrat portrayal of the Republican Party continue to persist. In reality, the composition of both parties is primarily White men but that is slowly beginning to change to reflect society at large. As I watched the presidential debates, I was encouraged by the diversity on the stage and the progress that has been made on that front.
In conclusion, ideas matter and we should work towards achieving more diversity in the GOP by offering an alternative vision for America.
Diversity is achievable without compromise. It will require a concerted effort but it is vital to the survival of the Republican Party.
P.S. Social media posts of ethnic foods probably aren’t the best way to go about welcoming new people to the GOP. That could be just me though.