As an African American voter who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, was educated at the University of Michigan, and now lives in New York City, I have seen more than enough political discussions and participated in a few. And I have only one thing to say about what the Republican Party needs to do from here.
Adapt or perish.
It is that simple.
Whether it was talking about “legitimate rape,” saying that Latinos needed to “self-deport” when discussing immigration, or insisting on shortening the window for early voting days in states like Florida just for the sake of trying to prevent minorities from voting, the Republicans committed the wrong move and said the wrong thing at every turn. I identify myself as an independent and I certainly do not support every move of the Democratic Party. Both parties have plenty of gaffes to go around (ask Joe Biden). But when given a choice between the two parties after watching them interact with each other and the American public during this election season, this was a no-brainer for the Oval Office.
The self-proclaimed “Grand Old Party” needs to realize that it can no longer rely on the older and white male voting block to power them into office and stay there. The Republican Party got a majority of that voting block and it was not enough to propel Mitt Romney into the White House. The demographic makeup of the United States is changing rather rapidly and with changing demographics come change in interests and issues. The issues of African Americans, Latinos, females, and gays were overtly and callously understated by the Republican Party leading up to November 6. They didn’t even attempt any damage control because they were naïve enough to think that these groups wouldn’t come out and vote like they did in 2008.
The game has changed. Young voters, African American voters, Latino voters, female voters, and gay voters are all more interested in politics than ever and interested enough to wait hours in line to cast their votes. When I was a youngster in middle school, politics to me was about old white men in suits talking and talking while others listened. I didn’t get the impression that others participated or were even interested. I voted for the first time in 2008 and something about the Obama campaign directly appealed to my interests and the way I thought about issues.
Yes, Obama is an African American like I am and that definitely helped me get interested from the start but the approach is what kept me interested. Several of my Wolverine classmates and I went to Toledo, Ohio, to canvass and I sincerely believed that I was making a difference in doing so. The ability to access the campaign on Facebook and Twitter as a college student was monumental and the enthusiasm was more contagious than peer pressure. George W. Bush’s eight years made it very easy but the Obama campaign understood that they had a very diverse group of people to bring to their side and they did so effectively.
The Republican Party believed that it could rely on old tactics to keep getting the job done. I played lacrosse in high school and on defense, my coaches were always harping on forcing your man to go to his weak side. And conversely, it makes no sense to do your opponent a favor by willingly going to your weak side when you are on offense. This is exactly what the Republic Party has done since the chance to remove Barack Obama from office became a reality.
It was their choice to pursue avenues to require a driver’s license to vote, even though the areas where they chose to implement them were urban areas heavy with minorities. Minorities who have used public transportation their whole lives to get and never saw the need to get a driver’s license, much less own a car. It was their choice to constantly come up with fantastical ways to challenge President Obama’s legitimacy as an American and distract the nation from the real problems with the birther nonsense. It was their choice to adopt a very ridiculous immigration law in Arizona, openly targeted at those of Latino descent. It was their choice to state, “if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
None of these are on the Republican Party’s strong side. They openly ran to their weak side and hoped to win. These tactics may have worked in the past, but the growing change in demographic numbers will not allow for it anymore. A dramatic change in voting blocks has occurred and by the looks of it, the changes are for good. Yes, we have an African American president and quite a few minority votes got him the White House for four more years. Plenty of women voted for him as well. And why did they do so? Because he didn’t openly come out and insult every vagina in America and then believe that votes on issues concerning a vagina would go his way.
You have hard realities to face, Grand Old Party. You have given millions of Americans reason to dislike you. If you want to stick around, you have to do what any living organism does when its existence and surroundings are threatened. You adapt. And the first thing you need to do is change your nickname. If you really want young voters, African American voters, women voters, and gay voters to leave the enthusiasm that the Obama administration has created, you absolutely have to stop referring to yourselves as the Grand Old Party. It’s like a 40-year old man going around wearing his high school varsity jacket and telling people that he made the All-Star team. It is time to let go. Names and labels are powerful things and the longer you call yourself the Grand Old Party, you are begging us to remember how ghastly you have behaved in the past.
The second thing you need to do is admit that you were wrong in your ways. Admit that you have wasted a lot of people’s time with your antics and making politics just despicable sometimes. After Obama won in 2008, a certain member of your party said, “I hope he fails.” And what you really meant was, “I would rather the whole nation suffer and not fix any problems at all then let our new president succeed.” I can hear people complaining that the statement does not represent the party at large. Ok, fine. How about the members of the party who were upset when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said President Barack Obama was doing a great job of handling the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. People lost their HOMES in a natural disaster. I don’t think anyone who sees a FEMA truck deliver them supplies is going to care which party made it happen. They do just the sensible thing and say “thank you.”
The third thing you need to do is remind the country that you have some good ideas by formulating ways to reach those groups that you previously chose ignore and insult. That means changing your tactics and earnestly taking some notes from your opposition, the Democratic Party. I see absolutely no reason why the Republican Party cannot get these same groups I have mentioned excited about participating in politics as the Democratic Party has. But the old ways are not going to work. If you are going to appeal to the masses, you have to know whom they are. Only appealing to the interests of older white males is not going to work anymore. America is so much more than that, it always has been, and it should always be.
We all have something to contribute and if you want to control the Oval Office again, it’s time that you recognized the changes and acted accordingly.