Republican Party: Get Diverse or Face Extinction

Jordan Fabian, ABC News, March 18, 2013

The Republican Party is giving itself somewhat of an ultimatum: improve at courting racially diverse and young voters or be condemned as a perennial loser at the national level.

That’s a core message of a comprehensive report that the Republican National Committee (RNC) will release Monday, which proposes wholesale changes to the way the party operates in the wake of back-to-back losses in presidential elections. That includes how the party identifies and reaches out to voters, uses data and technology, raises money, conducts presidential primaries, and confronts campaign finance laws that have given rise to deep-pocketed super PACs.

But the transformation put forth by the committee is sure to encounter resistance from entrenched corners of the GOP and the conservative movement as the right looks to win back the White House.

TheĀ 97-page report, commissioned by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, is blunt about the mistakes the party has made in past elections, especially when it comes to alienating some of the fastest-growing groups in the country that have gained increasing political influence, such as Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and people under the age of 30. The report offers up a roadmap for the GOP to shed its reputation as an “out of touch” party full of “stuffy old men” and eventually earn more votes from the aforementioned groups in national elections.

“The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic, community, or region of this country,” Priebus said Monday morning in a speech unveiling the report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The RNC wants to prove it’s serious about revamping its image after losing two straight presidential elections by launching a renewal project titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project.” The initiative will include a $10 million push to reach out to Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American voters.

Party officials, including Priebus, traveled to 12 different cities over the course of three months to meet with local leaders and conduct focus groups with diverse groups of voters, in an effort to find out how the party went off track. Research included a poll of 2,000 Republican Hispanic voters, according to the the report. The report, drafted by a five-person committee, makes over 200 suggested changes that the party could choose to adopt.

When it comes to how the GOP has treated voters from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, the report makes no excuses.

It acknowledges that population growth in the Hispanic, Asian, African-American communities will make the United States a majority-minority nation by 2050 and that President Obama won a whopping 80 percent of those voters in the last two elections. Put more simply, the GOP’s strategy of relying on older, whiter voters is becoming unsustainable.

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The report echoes what many Hispanic leaders have said for years, that the GOP’s “position on immigration has become a litmus test,” one which they have failed in past elections. As a result, the RNC report endorsed comprehensive immigration reform, saying that it is in line with “Republican economic principles.”

“We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” says the report. “If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

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Beyond policy shifts, the report recommends building up the party’s infrastructure to address these groups. It calls for the hiring of national political directors and advisory councils specifically for Asian-American, Hispanic and African-American voters to develop more sophisticated outreach and voter-targeting strategies, increasing engagement with Hispanic media, recruiting more minority candidates and installing minorities in key party leadership roles, not just “pigeonhole[ing]” them into “demographic outreach” positions.

Most importantly, it says that the GOP must engage year-round every year in minority communities, where Democrats have often been established for years, in order to make inroads. On Monday Priebus suggested that Republicans talk with groups “with which we’ve had minimal contact in the past,” such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza.

It even suggests that the party use somewhat guerilla-style tactics to reach immigrant and minority communities, such as having outreach officials attend swearing-in ceremonies for newly naturalized citizens. {snip}

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“Unless the RNC gets serious about tackling this problem, we will lose future elections,” the report says. “The pervasive mentality of writing off blocks of states or demographic votes for the Republican Party must be completely forgotten. The Republican Party must compete on every playing field.”

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