The Corner

Race and the Rebound

Ben Domenech writes in his daily newsletter, The Transom:

It’s worth noting the persistence of this idea that Republicans are doomed because they are too focused on white voters to the expense of the growing minority population.  As I’ve noted before, that assumes a static and unshakeable union between minorities and the Democratic Party in the post-Obama era not yet in evidence (the latest Reason-Rupe poll found that 60% of African-Americans and 58% of Latinos think the individual mandate should be delayed). But it also assumes that the policies and messages Republicans, and particularly conservatives, have advanced are isolated to certain voters, and can’t expand beyond those limitations. This seems illogical to me. The argument goes like this: Republicans need more support from lower and middle class ethnic voters, yet they largely refuse to engage in appeals based on identity politics. Therefore, it is impossible for Republicans to win non-white voters.

This is absurd. While there are certainly cultural barriers to Republican appeals, and no one will listen to you if you’re not listening to them first, the argument for building a better plan for lower and middle class Americans is inherently color-blind. It is class-based, not confined to white voters. The lower class white family in Ohio is struggling just as much to make ends meet as the lower class black family. Just because the language you might use with the Dominican or Korean shop owner in Philadelphia or in Seattle might be slightly different, the set of policy priorities is the same.

Yet experienced political journalists and analysts seem incapable of understanding this – perhaps because they are naturally prone to believe that no conservative policy solution could be any good for anyone less rich than Mitt Romney or less pious than Mike Huckabee. Who knows why that could be?  But whatever the explanation, the important thing is that conservatives don’t just sit back and twiddle their thumbs while journalists ignore Obama’s shrinking approval ratings: they need to use this time to ramp up their agenda for the very voters who are wavering in their support for Democratic policies. Next week at AEI will bring some remarks on tax reform, the family, and the pursuit of happiness, and the introduction of a new plan by Senator Mike Lee.  Republicans should pay attention to it, and to other plans like it, which challenge the policy status quo on the right to better connect with the problems Americans of all races are facing in today’s stagnant economy.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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