Is the Republican Party dead? That’s the question liberals, independents and even conservatives themselves asked after their stunning defeat in the 2012 presidential election. While Republican pundits and commentators predicted a landslide victory in the 2012 race, the opposite turned out to be true. President Barack Obama won reelection over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in a decisive victory on Nov. 6, 2012. The fact that young people, single women and people of color voted overwhelmingly for the president led political insiders to question how the GOP can remain relevant in a United States that’s more diverse than ever. Embracing immigration reform and stepping up outreach to minority groups are some of the strategies Republicans have proposed to connect with a wide range of Americans.
Even before the 2012 election, the Republican Party faced criticism for lacking diversity. Although a number of high-profile Republicans of color appeared at the GOP convention in August 2012, the public noted that many audience members at the convention looked nothing like Artur Davis, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio or any of the other minority lawmakers who appeared on stage. That’s because the GOP is 87 percent white, making it less diverse than the nation as a whole. William J. Bennett, a former official in the George H.W. Bush administration, said before Election Day that Republicans needed to change their approach to minority communities. The GOP “must broaden their base,” he said.
After President Obama delivered a stunning defeat to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Election Day 2012, a number of conservatives discussed the measures the GOP could take to connect with the voters of color who paved the way for Obama’s re-election. Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate and ex-Arkansas governor, said that the GOP failed to get more votes from minorities because they have largely ignored communities of color. Conservative commentator Dick Morris agreed. “What the Republican Party needs to do is to stop running in the face of those demographics, and start appealing to them and start revising some of its priorities and its positions in order to reach that vote because that vote is here to stay,” he said.
There’s no doubt that voters of color heavily support the Democratic Party, but it’s not impossible for Republicans to make converts out of some of them. The GOP is likely to win over some Latinos and Asian Americans if they support comprehensive immigration reform, as both communities care deeply about this issue. Republicans can also increase their chances of appealing to a broad spectrum of the public if they come to the center on some issues, says former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. “The GOP has to break the hold that fringes of the party have over the primary process so that our candidates can campaign and govern from the sensible center,” she said.
Before, during and after the Republican primaries, conservatives made a number of headlines for making racially tinged remarks. Former speaker of the house and 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich offended both Palestinians and blacks. He remarked that Palestinians were an “invented people” and also said that in inner-city communities people have no work ethic. Rick Santorum became ensnared in controversy after remarking that he didn’t want to “make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” He later denied using the word “black.” Ron Paul found himself in hot water after concerns about racially charged newsletters published under his name were raised.