For all candidates for elected office, there is a fine line between outreach and pandering. Outreach is admirable, based on genuine care for issues of importance to certain communities, and done in a way that doesn’t seem unnatural. Pandering is disgusting, based singularly on a desire for votes, and done in a way that is almost always obvious for how forced it seems. In short, Donald Trump’s courting of African-American and Hispanic voters is exactly what pandering looks like.
Following the electoral defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee published an “Autopsy Report” in an attempt to gauge what Republicans should do in the future after losing two straight presidential elections. The seemingly two biggest takeaways from this report were directed at Hispanic and African-American outreach.
Regarding Hispanic voters, the report focused on the issue of immigration reform, arguing that the tone – and to some extent the overall policy plans – conveyed to voters is incredibly important. If Hispanic voters feel that Republicans want to throw all immigrants out of the country because of the tone of their immigration reform rhetoric, then they are not going to listen to anything else that Republicans have to say.
Concerning African-American voters, the autopsy proposed a radical idea: stop taking the African-American vote for granted and start communicating with them. For most of the past half-century, the Republican Party has ceded the African-American vote to Democrats without any fight. Even before President Obama was on the ballot, African-Americans were voting for Democrats by a margin of nine to one. Republicans in the recent past have not even tried to appeal to the African-American community. No candidate or party is ever going to win over voters without asking for, and earning, their vote.
Importantly, this autopsy did not call for the abandoning of conservative principles simply in name of minority outreach. That would have been pandering. Instead, in most cases it called for an adjustment of tone on controversial issues, like immigration reform and voter identification laws, and a new focus on issues where these communities value conservative principles over liberal ones. For example, Republicans could be talking about breaking the cycle of poverty in the inner cities to reach out to African-Americans, like what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has been attempting to do for the past three years. For Hispanics, Republicans could focus more on the expansion of school choice, an issue near to the heart of any parent with a child trapped in a failing school. Neither of these strategies sacrifices conservative principles or could be considered pandering.
Now compare these strategies to what Donald Trump has been doing. Whether it is tweeting out a picture of himself with a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo or accusing Hillary Clinton of bigotry, Trump’s attempts at reaching a wider base of support among non-whites has been a categorical failure. Based on a recent Fox News poll, Trump is receiving about 20 percent of Hispanic support, nearly ten points below what Mitt Romney received in 2012. In the same poll, he is only receiving one percent of support from African Americans.
There is going to come a time in the next half century when white Americans are no longer the majority in the United States. This fact alone demands that genuine outreach from the agents of conservatism to minority communities begin immediately. Hopefully, the future proves that the candidacy of Donald Trump will be the wakeup call that conservatives needed to recognize the necessity of appealing to new voters.
— Connor Kitchings is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE
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