Republicans & “Minorities”

Republican Party (United States)

No longer a white elephant? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Bill O’Reilly pointed out, the majority of black & Hispanic voters supported Obama over Romney in the 2012 election. While O’Reilly presented this a moral failing on the part of blacks and Hispanics (as O’Reilly saw it, they supported Obama because they wanted “stuff”) more practical Republican politicians have taken a different perspective.

To be specific, these politicians are saying that the Republican Party needs to attract these voters and this will require that the party undergo some changes (or at least the appearance of change). This has already led some politicians to say that the party needs to reconsider its stance on immigration so as to win over Hispanic voters. Interestingly, the party had previously professed to have taken a principled stance on this and related issues. However, that was before they lost the election to Obama.

While politicians profess principles and ideologies, these are typically means to the end of being elected rather than actual commitments. That is, politicians profess what they believe will get them elected.

There are, of course, some true believers. However, there are clearly more politicians who are like Romney (who changed his professed views with consistent inconsistency) than like Ron Paul (who is well known for his constancy in belief).

As such, it makes sense that the practical Republicans would begin to change their professed views on the matter of immigration. After all, they believe that doing so will increase their chances of being elected (or re-elected). As might be imagined, it has been pointed out that Hispanics do not care solely about immigration and that merely saying something different about immigration will not be enough to win over voters.

It is also interesting that the main focus is on Hispanics rather than other minorities. However, this is not surprising—Hispanics are a rapidly growing “minority” and even before the Republicans publicly acknowledge the need to get their vote they were a coveted demographic for advertisers. Also, as some might point out, it had been assumed that blacks would support Obama and hence little effort was made to woo black voters. This might, however, change.

There has also been an effort to win over women voters and this began before the election. Romney was able to make inroads against Obama’s lead, but Obama did well with single women, making this a demographic that Republicans will need to win over in future elections.

It is, of course, tempting to criticize politicians for doing this. After all, if O’Reilly can criticize voters for supporting Obama because they want “stuff” it seems very reasonable to criticize politicians for abandoning their professed principles and ideologies simply to get votes. After all, they are not acting on principle—other than the principle that one should do whatever it takes to get elected. After all, when they thought they could win by appealing to white and socially conservative voters, they pandered to them. Now that they have realized that the demographics are not as their narrative told them, they are changing their pandering targets.

In defense of the Republicans who are advocating a change in professed values, it could be argued that they are not merely being cynical and practical politicians. Rather, it could be argued that they are following the principles of democracy and modifying their views in a principled way to match the values of their potential constituents. That is, the Republicans are legitimately undergoing a re-evaluation of their values and assessing them in a principle manner—as opposed to changing their rhetoric to pander to the new demographics so as to get elected.

However, if the Republicans truly change their professed principles on key issues to win over black, Hispanic and women voters, then there is the important question of determining what the party and its members stand for (other than winning elections). Of course, the party could contend that they will still retain their core values while changing what are now the more peripheral values (although these values seemed rather core last time around).

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  1. I think the republicans need to distance themselves from religion and take a secular position if they really want to stand a chance in future. Had Romney had a similar religious profile to that of Obama ( ie very low key to non existent religion) I think he would have won by miles. The masses trust their own evangelist pastors but don’t trust any other and the rivalry between them makes religion a very risky political differentiator…its best to stay away from it!

  2. Socrates Schultz

    Since the Republican “movers & shakers” continue referring to the minorities who elected Obama as “those people” my guess is a change in voting patterns is in the future… 😉

  3. The Republicans are not finished yet. They hold a majority in Congress, and 49% of the electorate did not vote for Obama.

  4. Whether the Republicans are finished–in time–is up to them. As long as their leaders keep referring to opposing groups as “those people” they have a problem. BTW, the GOP lost two Senate seats, possibly seven House seats and the Presidency the GOP prognosticators “knew” they would win.

  5. Socrates Schultz,

    True-parties typically have a role in deciding when they die. The Republican intellectuals seem to get the idea that they need to change their rhetoric, if not their actual policies, in response to a world that differs from their old narrative.

  6. Socrates Schultz

    Mike, I’m new here… the Republican intellectuals have left the building, most departed in the last century. Mostly, the Republican fanatics are all that remain to guide the party. I’m biased, of course, as I was a committed moderate Republican in county and state government in the seventies and left in the eighties when the party took a hard right turn and I wanted to go straight ahead.

  7. As someone from the ‘historically-advantaged’ side of the pond, am I alone in wondering just what overt US party politics (to dignify recent goings-on with the ‘p’ word) is doing on a Philosophy blog? It was bad enough that the BBC seemed to devote half its UK budget to covering the pre-vote US trivia via live outside broadcasting for the last few months from ‘over there’.

    Perhaps the commentaries on this page can try to sustain an intellectually pertinent strand – provided US party-political machinations indeed have any philosophical content.

  8. It’s an identity problem. Can the leopard change its spots, and remain a leopard? As the conservative party, racism, homophobia, and misogyny are fundamental to the Republican dogma, and an inflexible adherence to dogma is fundamental to Conservatism. (Just as Russell pointed out the inverse; that flexibility of thought in light of new knowledge was the hallmark of Liberalism). For the Republicans to talk of greater inclusion of, and concern for, the issues of women and minorities introduces an untenable dissonance in their message. Logically, I don’t see how they can pull it off and retain their identity. When put to the dilemma of “change or die”, conservatives continually espouse their preference for the latter option; though perhaps their behavior will belie their beliefs.

  9. I'm glad Barak Obama won - Page 14 - Christian Forums - pingback on November 22, 2012 at 4:33 am
  10. Mark C.,

    The Republicans could do a hard reboot back to Lincoln. 🙂

    I do think that a conservative can be without racism, homophobia and so on. For example, I run with several Republicans and a few libertarians. They are fiscal conservatives (one is an economics professor) but do not embrace the prejudices of the extreme social elements of the Republican party. I’ve written about how the Republicans do face a serious challenge trying to keep the fiscal and social conservatives under one tent without alienating people who are not keen on homophobia and misogyny.

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