Getting an early start on primary season, Rand Paul stopped by New Hampshire and, according to an article, “urged New Hampshire Republicans to become more diversified.”
New Hampshire is 94.6% white, 2.9% Latino and 1.3% Black. I don’t know the exact diversity statistics for New Hampshire Republicans, but if they get a half-black and half-Latino guy in a wheelchair to run for something, they will have covered all the statistical bases.
“We need to grow bigger,” Rand Paul said. “If you want to be the party of white people, we’re winning all the white votes. We’re a diverse nation. We’re going to win when we look like America.”
Looking like America is common advice these days. What does America look like? For now it still looks more like New Hampshire than like California. And despite that, Democrats scored some big wins in New Hampshire in the last election.
Obama won New Hampshire 52 to 46 and it probably wasn’t the black vote that put him over the top. He picked up over 100,000 votes in Hillsborough County, which is 90 percent white. Clearly Republicans aren’t winning all the white votes in New Hampshire. Or in Kentucky.
Rand Paul’s Kentucky looks a lot like New Hampshire. It’s 88.9% white. In his 2010 Senate election, Paul won 59% of the white vote and his opponent won 86% of the black vote. Two years later, Romney won 59% of the white vote and his opponent won 93% of the black vote. Both men scored the exact same percentage of the white vote.
Some might try to find a silver lining in that Rand Paul won 13 percent of the black vote, but he wasn’t running against a black candidate. In 2004, Bush won 12 percent of the Kentucky black vote. Nearly the same amount as Rand Paul. More importantly, he won 64 percent of the white vote and 58 percent of the female vote to Rand Paul’s 51 percent. The female vote is far more important than picking up minority votes in New Hampshire or Kentucky.
Romney did not lose because he lost the Latino vote. That’s a myth which has been discredited, but is still being used to push for an illegal alien amnesty. Instead of trying to be diverse for the sake of diversity, the GOP might try doing what the other side did, increasing the turnout for its base by actually appealing to them.
The Republican National Convention in 2012 was a study in diversity. It was possibly even more diverse than the Democratic National Convention. It also didn’t work.
Diversity is familiar enough to be met with casual contempt. Every company trots out stock photos overflowing with stock minorities so that they can look like America or some part of America. It impresses absolutely no one. “Looking like America” is slang for racial tokenism which is both patronizing and insulting.
Common skin color alone does not win elections. If it did, the Republican Party could just push out countless white Democrats in precarious districts by running black candidates against them. The idea that skin color alone is representation is still the law and its emotional resonance is sometimes undeniable, but emotional identification is also based on more than just race. And representation cannot be reduced to racial diversity as a winning strategy.
The Republican Party has two Latino senators and one Black senator. That tops the Democratic Party in the “Looking like California” metrics but doesn’t move the political numbers forward.
“We need to have black people, brown people, white people, we need to have people with tattoos, without tattoos, with long hair, with short hair, with beards, without beards,” Rand Paul said. “We need to look more like America. We need to appeal to the working class; we need to appeal to all segments of the country.”
Let’s assume that the Republican Party gets people with hair of all sizes, what then? Talking about appealing to the working class is nice, but Rand Paul lost the under $30,000 vote. He tied for the $30,000 to $49,000 vote. He only broke out with the above $50,000 voters. That was the same thing that happened to Romney. And unlike Romney, race couldn’t be blamed for those results. Not when Bush decisively won those same voters in Kentucky in 2004.
In 2004, Bush tied Kerry among the $30,000 to $49,000 voters. In 2012, Romney lost them by 8 percent. McCain had lost them by 7 percent in 2008. Grafton County, the site of Obama’s biggest margin of victory in New Hampshire, is 95% white and its median household income is $41,962. That’s well below the median household income in the country, but that only hovers a little above $50,000.
In 2000, Bush nearly tied Kerry in Grafton County. In 2008, Obama won it by 63 percent. Instead of looking to see why Republicans can’t win the Latino vote, it might be a good idea to see why Republicans have begun losing Grafton County; which looks a whole lot like America.
Amnesty for illegal aliens will hit low-income voters hardest. It will punish the very voters that Republicans need in order to win and build up demographics of voters who are not going to vote Republican anyway.
Republicans would be foolish to give up on minority voters, but even more foolish to give up on low-income white voters. In 2011, Republicans had pulled ahead among $30,000 voters, going from 37 to 47 percent since the 2008 election. The real question worth asking about the 2012 election is what happened to those numbers?
The Republican Party does not need to “look like America.” It needs to actually look at America. And if it can do that, if it can find common ground with low-income voters, then it will find that it has increased its share among minority voters as well. It worked for Reagan. It might just work in 2016.
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