After months of soul searching, the Republican Party is right back to its familiar role—opposition-in-chief. It didn't seem like this was going to be the case shortly after Election Day, when the GOP acknowledged they heard the American people loud and clear and pledged cooperation and compromise with Democrats. That message was quickly abandoned, as Republicans united to trounce any notion of nominating Susan Rice as Secretary of State. Then came the fiscal cliff negotiations: it was clear the GOP dalliance with a new message and attitude was clearly left at the altar. Now it's clear that any talk of better communication with women and minorities was just that – talk. Now, we could sit here and celebrate that the GOP learned nothing from Obama's victory—but instead we offer this tutorial designed to enlighten all the misguided souls who align themselves with the party. Follow these ten nuggets of wisdom and the GOP will not only become more attractive to the voters they couldn't get to the polls in November, but in the process may even build a strong, more diverse and reasonable political party that will pay dividends for elections to come. And who in the Republican Party doesn’t like dividends?
1. Ctrl-Alt-Del – Between the claim that President Obama won by giving “gifts” to African-Americans and Latinos, and his dismissal of 47 percent of voters, Mitt Romney alienated people of color. With his ultra conservative views on choice, Paul Ryan alienated women. And with a plethora of policy proposals designed for Mars, it’s safe to say Newt Gingrich alienated Earth. The first step toward GOP rehabilitation is a total system-wide reboot on the messengers they put forth. The GOP can no longer trot out fossils like John Sununu, Pat Robertson, Haley Barbour and others whose views are firmly couched in the 1950s and expect people of color to take them seriously as a party of forward-thinkers. The climate deniers, creationists and birthers all need to be relegated to the bench—the future relevance of the GOP on the national stage depends on getting fresh legs into the game.
2. Be Like Mike—The reaction in some Republican quarters to the colossal beat down Democrats gave them on Election Day was to moderate their views and put forth such a kindler, gentler Republican Party. Now even Sean Hannity is making sense on immigration reform. Look, losing an election doesn’t mean abandoning the key principles of which your party is built on. Republicans calling for moderation on immigration, choice, and climate change cannot win over black voters who strongly support those issues just by putting fresh ink on policy papers. But Republicans who stick to the party's core message might get some positive attention from others in the black community. Take former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who has never wavered in his beliefs and always speaks his mind—even telling the GOP post-election that they did a “pathetic” job reaching out to black voters. He should know something about appealing to black voters: Despite passing the smell test of the religious right—and, at one point, the Club for Growth—Huckabee garnered 48 percent of the black vote in Arkansas when running for re-election as governor. And how did Huckabee accomplish this goal? By talking directly to voters about where he stands.
3. Ask Aretha If It’s Working –The GOP should take a page out of Aretha Franklin’s songbook and show a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the black community. The sooner the GOP shows proper deference to African-American voters who are working long, hard hours for low pay, the better for them. A party that showed more compassion toward millionaires than they did toward Trayvon Martin cannot stand. And Romney’s recent comments on “gifts” only continue the GOP’s colossal diss to black voters. The GOP needs to respect black America, and stop calling people lazy just because they don’t have overseas bank accounts.
4. School Daze – Changes in manners and messengers will not be nearly enough to get black America to look in the direction of the GOP. The party needs a policy overhaul and the best place to start are the public schools—while we still have some left. In the 90s, Republican support for charters and vouchers complicated black voters’ relationship with the GOP. While we laud pathways that create better schools, it’s hard to forget Republican budget cuts to early childhood education, modernization projects and arts and sports programs. Black America understands that fundamental changes to public education are needed: President Obama, Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, all support charter schools, merit pay and high-stakes testing. But the GOP cannot continue to destroy the institutions our forefathers and mothers died for the right to attend with short-sighted budget cuts and a redistribution of tax dollars from the public schools to private institutions and expect to that to sit well with black voters.