Identity politics is a very fraudulent way to convince voters that you are on their side. It is much more important to have the wisest and most able leader at the helm than to elect the first paraplegic black pansexual named Carlos. Over the span of our country’s history, identity politics has come in many shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, it has stayed with us because it is an effective tool to earning a group of people’s trust, especially one that feels trodden upon or overlooked.
Democrats have utilized this to a far greater advantage than Republicans have. While I do not believe that the Republicans must have to meet a quota in order to prove they are not racists (that would in of itself be racist) some of the stats of who represents their party are rather troublesome and do not help their image. This could be embodied no better in one man than in Will Hurd, Republican Representative of the 23rd District of Texas and who is set on retiring in 2020. Not only is he the last Black Republican in the House but he is also the last Republican to represent a district along the Mexican Border (and when he leaves, both of those titles will likely leave with him).
The 2018 midterm elections highlighted the stark difference between Republicans and Democrats. In the House, over half of the 67 freshman Democratic Representatives were women. Out of 44 freshman Republicans, only 2 were women. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio was the only freshman non-white Republican. 34% of the freshman Democrats were minorities of some sort, while on the Republican side a mere 2%. Furthermore, 90% of the approximately 200 Republican Representatives in the House today are white men.
It is quite ironic to think that the Republicans are the party to struggle with race given their history. The Party that enacted the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, the Party to elect the first woman and black person to Congress, the Party that gave Native Americans the right to vote (Indian Citizenship Act of 1924) and the Party that voted with a higher percentage of support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, has almost no minority support.
Why should this be? Although unlikeable candidates and bad policy on the part of Republicans have their place in the answer, I would say more than anything else it is the mastery of the Democrat Party to sway public opinion and champion themselves as the Party of the People.
The Democrats have been around since the days of Andrew Jackson, and they have been proven politicians time and time again. There is a reason why they are the oldest surviving party in all of America. They capitalized on Irish Catholics coming to New England and New York, and through their party machines (such as Boss Tweed’s) gave many of them houses of squalor and often poorly-paid jobs in exchange for their votes. Even though it was not much, it was more often than not better than what they ran away from, so why shouldn’t they be grateful? This is what began the trend of New England being so staunchly Democratic. Since the time the Republican Party was founded, the Northeast had always been their staunchest base. Vermont never voted for a Democrat from the time the Republicans were ushered into existence in the 1850s until the 1960s. Even to this day Vermont (who as you surely know has the likes of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders today) has still voted Republican for President more than any other state. This is a practice the Democrats would replicate: to appeal to a downtrodden minority group by promising loaves to only give crumbs, and it has almost always worked.
As for black voters, they staunchly voted Republican until 1932. After that, they voted Democrat in droves, due to New Deal policies which promised their community a fresh start. Many of them hated it knowing the past of the Democratic Party, but it was a choice most made nonetheless out of a perceived lack of hope. A deal with the Devil essentially. Once again in the 1960s, even though it was Republicans who voted more on the lines of the Civil Rights Act than the Democrats (in the Senate there was a Filibuster to stop the Civil Rights Act of 1964, led by 18 Democrats and one mere Republican) the Democrats were able to portray it as their victory as LBJ was the one who ultimately signed it into law, although his motives for doing so were more likely than not out of political necessity to cement the black vote to that of the Democrats than out of any goodwill he had. And ever since the black vote has been the strongest out of any “race” for either party.
Women in their first election in 1920 voted overwhelmingly for Republican Warren G. Harding. Although the New Deal shifted their allegiance temporarily, it was brought back to the Republican side in the 1950s as Dwight D. Eisenhower sought out their allegiance through ads discussing domestic issues that mostly concerned women at the time. However, the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s gave the Democrats a new and powerful tool to court the woman vote. No matter how correct or not the Democrats were then and now in claiming that abortion is a woman’s right and that they are victims of widespread sexism, it has not ultimately mattered as it portrayed them as the champion of women and their causes, and for the most part has seemed to work especially in recent years.
Other minorities such as Arabs used to vote much more Conservative, and in the election of 2000 voted nearly half and half for each Party. George Bush greatly hurt that edge with his War on Terror. Latino voters have started voting more along the Democratic side due to the touchy issue of immigration and where each party stands on it. Cubans used to vote strongly for Republicans due to how many of them immigrated by escaping the Communist Regime of Castro but in recent years half of Cuban voters have been voting Democrat.
There really is no one single answer to how the Republicans can win back the ground they have lost. They should definitely try to find more competent minority and female candidates to reflect a diversifying America. They could stress issues that they stand for that could be more in line with the people groups they are trying to win over, or even change certain policies to be more electable (I for one do not agree with all of the policies on paper of the Republican Party and less with what they have actually done). For better or for worse America’s demographics are trending younger, more urban, and more Latino and Asian, which is the exact opposite of how the Republican Party’s base has been trending. They have to find ways to court them, but most importantly they need to have a Presidential candidate who is the right kind of conservative, competent, and extremely clean without any way for Democrats to credibly slander their character. At the end of the day it is more important to have a good candidate than to worry about their status of minority and not care about how good they can actually govern.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale not only because of how good of a candidate he was but how bad of a ticket he was facing. Walter Mondale was more liberal than even most Democrats at the time and while he picked the first woman to ever be nominated as Vice President for either party, it backfired stupendously. Why? Because of how crappy of a candidate she was. She was slogged in scandal after scandal and even most Democrat voters did not like the choice of Mondale because they could perceive that he had chosen out of wanting to try to be inclusive more than actually wanting a partner that could govern.
If the Republicans would actually pick someone that was likeable and could govern very effectively, then I have little doubt this more than anything could win back their lost ground. But even then there is still much more to be done.