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It’s Time for the Republican Party to Embrace Identity Politics

Written By : John Hawkins
June 29, 2009

Just about everyone acknowledges, inside the Republican Party and out, that the GOP needs to do a much better job of bringing minorities into the party. There’s a big problem, however, with doing that, one that is seldom discussed. You see, the issues preventing Republicans from bringing more minorities into the party are cultural as much as they are political. By that I mean that many blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, and even women are voting for Democrats, even though politically, their views already better match up with the Republican Party.

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That’s not to say that the GOP could get 50% of every one of those groups — but, is say 35% of the black vote as opposed to the 10% we usually get or 45% of the Hispanic vote as opposed to the roughly 30% we pull in normally, out of the question? Not at all and if we could pull it off, it would create a powerful political shift to the right in this country.

The problem with trying to do this is that the Republican Party has ceded leadership in minority communities, almost by default, to the Democratic Party. You can see examples of this on a regular basis. Sarah Palin is hit with sexist attacks and even conservatives say, “NOW is supposed to represent all women; so what are they going to say about it?” When black Republicans are treated unfairly, it’s, “What does the NAACP have to say about this?” In other words, the Democrats have created groups who claim to speak for all blacks, all Hispanics, all women — and even conservatives buy into it to a certain extent.

Moreover, ask yourself why being anti-illegal immigration is supposed to be “racist?” Sure, it impacts mostly Hispanic illegals – but they’re not Americans. On the other hand, illegal immigration disproportionately impacts American Hispanics. It puts them out of jobs and lowers their wages. It makes a mockery of the Hispanic Americans who love this country and spent thousands of dollars and years waiting to get their citizenship the right way. And why? So a bunch of rich white liberals can have a Hispanic slave class to pick their strawberries and be their nannies? That sounds more than a little racist to me.

How about Affirmative Action? What makes opposing that “racist?” Sure, there are a few black Americans who benefit from it, but it also causes thousands of black college students to flunk out of schools they never should have been admitted to in the first place. It also casts a shadow over the accomplishment of every black American because it leaves people wondering whether they got where they are via merit or Affirmative Action. So, whom does it benefit? Primarily white liberals who care more about making themselves feel superior to black Americans by giving them counter-productive “help” — than they do about making anyone’s life better.

There is always a case that can be made for the conservative side of things. In fact, it’s often already made in minority communities. See Bill Cosby for a good example of it. Even the Nation of Islam hits on some conservative themes. Unfortunately here’s a sad fact that we have to accept: not all, but many members of minority groups in this country will side with someone of their own race over someone of a different race, even if that person better represents their views.

We just had a great example of it in the Democratic primary last year when black Democrats went in a landslide for Barack Obama over the wife of the “first black President,” despite the fact that they had extremely similar views.

So, as you can see, when we allow the Democrats to have complete control over every significant group that claims to represent a minority, it puts the GOP at an incredible disadvantage. Practically by default, a certain percentage of minority Americans will vote the way that groups that are supposed to represent them (Ex. NAACP, La Raza) tell them. These groups also, again almost by default, get to define the important issues to minority groups and they get to decide what’s considered racist and what’s not.

Traditionally, conservatives have been reluctant to fight fire with fire in this area because we have internalized Martin Luther King’s belief that people should be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” That’s why conservatives tend to find groups like the NAACP and La Raza abhorrent.

As conservatives I think it’s time for us to acknowledge that most Americans don’t agree with us on this issue and are unlikely to agree with us in the foreseeable future.

Additionally, we should not forget that conservatives have done more than a little bit of dabbling with identity politics over the last few years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard conservatives speak with pride about Clarence Thomas being the only black Supreme Court Justice or Bush having appointed the first black Secretary of State. Furthermore, would Sarah Palin have been selected as VP in 2008 if she weren’t female? Would Michael Steele be the RNC Chair today if he were a white man? That’s not a slap at Sarah Palin, who was the best thing to happen to John McCain’s campaign or Michael Steele, who, despite a few missteps, has done a better job as RNC Chair than most people acknowledge; it’s just a recognition of reality.

On top of that, there are already plenty of rightward leaning groups that are designed to appeal to minority groups of some sort or another. Among them are: The Republican National Hispanic Assembly, The Hispanic Alliance for Progress, The Latino Coalition, GOProud, Project 21, Bond, National Black Republican Association, and the Independent Women’s Forum.

None of these groups has ever managed to reach the prominence of their liberal counterparts like NOW, La Raza, CAIR, or the NAACP because they don’t get the funding or the support from conservatives. That needs to change. These groups, or groups like them, need to get the money, attention, and the backing that they need to become our ambassadors in minority communities and on the issues.

When a Hispanic radio show is debating immigration, we need to have someone from a conservative version of La Raza on there, putting out our point of view.

When Democrats say Sarah Palin can’t be an effective leader because she has five children, we need the conservative version of NOW hammering them as sexists on TV.

When black ministers are fighting against gay marriage, the National Association for the Advancement of Conservative Colored People needs to be at the heart of the fight.

It’s not just the message; it’s who’s delivering it and when conservatives accept that, we may shock people with how fast our minority outreach begins to bear fruit.

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