Monday, March 02, 2009

The Mythical Minority Social Conservative

Every so often, I have heard conservative Republican operatives talk about how the GOP has an inroad to persons of color because in many of those communities, there is strong opposition to gay marriage.

Since there hasn't been a flood of black people to the GOP based on their stance on gay marriage, I have always found that argument bogus if not bigoted. Being someone who is African American (and gay to boot) I've always believed that most African Americans are concerned with bread and butter issues instead of whether I and my partner decide to go to the justice of the peace and get hitched.

Finally, a conservative has shown this belief to be false. Zac Morgan, writing in today's New Majority, shares that the evidence doesn't line up with the rhetoric coming from leading conservatives:

Let's look at the black vote first, and put aside whether or not large portions of an ethnic group with a median income that is barely over half of that of white Americans (and shows historical antipathy to the GOP) could be swung on moral issues.

First of all, while it is true that blacks came out very heavily in favor of Proposition 8 (70 percent), they also had no problem voting heavily for President Obama (McCain only winning 5 percent). On the issue of Proposition 8, Obama made it very clear during the campaign that he opposed it; McCain made it just as clear that he favored it. As of now, there is simply no evidence that this issue has the potential to move significant numbers of black voters into the red column. Even if it did, younger African-Americans are somewhat more likely to embrace gay marriage than their elders. According to a 2007 study by the University of Chicago, 58 percent of black youth were opposed to same-sex marriage.

As for forging an electoral coalition with Latinos over gay marriage, this seems far less likely. Whites and Hispanics had little difference in their support for Proposition 8 (49 percent for whites, 53 percent for Latinos), and the Chicago study indicates that younger voters in both groups are moving away from opposing same-sex marriage at the same pace (35 percent of whites and 36 percent of Hispanics).

So if the vote among younger minority voters is trending away from opposing gay marriage and if these constituencies have voted consistently Democratic, what is leading conservatives to think they can create a "moral coalition?" Well, it has to with appearing to reach out without having to change:

For years, conservatives have entertained this fantasy that the GOP could woo over ethnic minorities by appealing to "religious" or "cultural" values, particularly on the issue of gay marriage, without having to change any other aspects of the pachyderm appeal. This is an urban legend to retire to the Snopes page. In recent years, Hispanics have very conclusively shown that their political allegiance is tied to other issues, particularly immigration (it would be foolhardy not to note that the last two extremely successful Republican candidates to win Hispanics at a national level, Reagan and George W. Bush, both openly supported some form of amnesty). Successful Republicans who have won the black vote, such as Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, did so by engaging in a constant, heart-felt dialogue with black groups and churches, and addressing the poverty question head-on. As he once noted to an audience at an event I attended, he came at the issue from the angle "Just because you were born in a crummy neighborhood doesn't mean your children have to go to a crummy school." (In this sense, perhaps half of Mr. Johnson's observation, regarding GOP support for urban charter schools, shows more promise.)

Take Latinos for example. Most Latinos tend to view immigration or English-only/official language efforts as important issues. Leading Republicans have made it standard that any immigration reform has to start with sending all 12 million illegal immigrants back to whence they came. When George Bush (who made some inroads into the Hispanic Community) and John McCain showed support for a Guest Worker plan, it was immediately slammed as "amnesty." It is a high sense of disconnect with reality to push for immigration reforms that boarders on xenophobia, and the turn around expect Latinos to work with you on banning gay marriage.

If the GOP wants to bring more black and Latino folk into the party, they are going to have to meet them on their own terms. Many communities are dealing with lack of basic services and economic opportunity. What the Republicans should be doing is listen to what these communities need and fashioning conservative solutions ala Jack Kemp, rather than as Morgan ends his essay, "bring the culture war to minority churches."


Philip H. said...

All this makes Michale Steele and Bobby Jindal even more "outsiders" in their own party - hence thier close hewing to Republican orthodoxy.

carola said...

I think minorities should be "wooed" in terms of class. Honestly, one half of my Hispanic family are all doctors and business owners and they are HUGE Republicans. The fact that they're Catholic and believe in alot of socially conservative principles was icing on the cake for them. It never really made sense to me that Republicans act like these minority groups are one big monolith in terms of ideas and approaches to life. Not all Latinos think its admirable to steal money from the government or to enter the country illegally. Myself case in point. To use a tired but still valid idea, I'm sure white Republicans do not like paying for ,say social services, but then again status conscious and class climbing Hispanic, Asian and Black Americans don't like to either. White Republicans should concentrate on those minorities and commend and flatter those whose lifestyles match theirs.