Tuesday, September 25, 2007

GOP Not Participating in Minority Debates is Pure Folly

I'm not one to buy into or promote stereotypes which is why when the front running GOP candidates pulled a no show at the NAACP debates I didn't post about it. Additionally when the same candidates blew off the debates hosted by Univision I didn't post about that either. (They also all blew off a conservative Christian forum in Florida around the same time.) However now that they have all opted out of the PBS debates at a historically Black college we officially have the beginning of a pattern. While many may attribute the worst possible motives to this behaviour I see other more likely and more logical reasons.

Number one being that by and large the GOP has written black voters off much in the same way the Dems had previously written off the South. Meaning that the numbers have shown that spending time and effort elsewhere turns out a greater number of voters or wins more districts. However in regards to the Hispanic debates I see another motive altogether. Simply put the odds of having to answer really tough questions about immigration are about one hundred percent. In a debate like that the odds of you having a better answer than the guy after you (who had more time to think) go down drastically. Given the strong anti-illegal immigrant sentiment amongst certain subsections of the GOP base actively engaging Hispanics or seeming sympathetic will invariably swing their votes to another candidate. Additionally given the fact that Hispanics are not a solid voting block there is no guarantee of a decent return for ones efforts. So by not engaging Hispanics the GOP front runners avoid losing votes from the base.

The problem with this "its all about the numbers" strategy is that it puts short term individual gains ahead of long term party growth. Couple that strategy with the fact the GOP leadership has in the past exploited racial strife in order to turn out white voters and the Dems have free reign to paint the Republicans as the little tent party. Now I'm no marketing expert but it seems to me that allowing your competition to define your public image isn't the best way to be successful. In order for the GOP to be viable in the long term it must take steps to engage minority voters even if it costs them votes from members of the base. Because given current demographic trends those members of the base that have been lifting them up will soon turn into an anchor that drags them even further down.