The GOP has a diversity and communications problem, and the solution is not as easy as they make it out to be.
Many leaders have admitted the problem exists, including Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, who published a recent op-ed in this space entitled, “For GOP Diversity, Look to the States.”
But Republicans are delusional if they believe that their messaging, and those who deliver it, are the extent of the problem. The party also has a massive policy disconnect with non-white voters.
Gov. Fortuño’s piece claims voters generally support GOP policies — even though they reelected President Obama in 2012 — and that the GOP doesn’t need to change their core beliefs. Instead, he argues, they need to recruit a diverse group of candidates and communicate their policies better to constituencies where they have struggled to connect.
With all due respect to Gov. Fortuño, he could not be more wrong.
President Obama was re-elected in 2012 with 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, 55 percent of female voters, 93 percent of the African-American vote, 73 percent of the Asian vote and 60% of the youth vote. This is not a coincidence.
It is because the Republican Party supports policies that are not in the best interest of communities of color, young people, women and the LGBT community — and those policies actually reflect the direction they want to take the country.
The RNC’s autopsy after the 2012 election acknowledged that the GOP needs to better appeal to these groups. However, the GOP’s offensive comments and hurtful policies have done little to help them reach that goal. But it’ll take more than just “mak[ing] adjustments,” as Gov. Fortuño claims in his piece, for the GOP to make inroads.
It will mean more than just training candidates how to talk to women voters. It will mean trusting women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and it will mean supporting equal pay for equal work.
It will mean more than just not repeating phrases like “self-deportation.” It will mean passing immigration reform and granting millions of immigrants the chance to come out of the shadows.
And it will mean more than just treating the LGBT community with respect. It will mean actually endorsing their right to marry the person they love and be protected from discrimination.
Gov. Fortuño wants us to look to the states for GOP diversity? ¿De verdad?
In the states, the GOP has purposely tried to make it more difficult for African Americans, Latinos, young people and women to vote. The governor’s own Republican colleagues have championed anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT bills and women’s health restrictions in states across the nation.
Just last month, the GOP led legislature in Arizona passed SB 1062 a bill that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT Americans. The problem with that bill wasn’t messaging or the messenger, it was the legislation itself. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, herself a Republican, had enough sense to veto the bill.
When your party does not reflect the best interests of women, communities of color or young people, it is not just a communications problem, it is a policy problem.
Unlike the GOP, Democrats are committed to supporting issues that Latinos, African Americans, women and youth care about. Democrats to support policies that will help grow our middle class, provide affordable quality healthcare for all Americans, provide more assistance for young people looking to go to college and fight for immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
Democrats are investing in data and technology to reach a larger and more diverse group of people through a new initiative called Project Ivy. We are working closely with our state parties to ensure that our grassroots are stronger than ever. We are recruiting and supporting candidates that reflect the issues that communities across the country care about, such as Leticia Van De Putte, who is running for lieutenant governor in Texas, and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who is running for the same position in Nevada.
The GOP does need to elect more diverse voices, that is true. But recruitment and messaging adjustments won’t change the fact that the party is blocking immigration reform, working to restrict voting in the states, and promoting policies that are hurtful to Latinos, African Americans, women and youth.
Gov. Fortuño, you can’t cover the sun with one finger. Unless the party changes its policies, voters will continue to hold the GOP accountable.
Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and political commentator based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.