I’ll put it simply. Minorities don’t trust the GOP because of the dynamics of power. Though there are many conservative minorities that agree with the GOP on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, the historical significance of power dynamics in this country still lead many minorities to vote for liberals. The racial scars left from suffering at the hands of the powerful for hundreds of years has led many minorities in this country to be wary of any group or policy that threatens to remove power from the people. Unfortunately for the GOP, they represent just such a group. Under the guises of personal freedom and limited government, the party looks to consolidate power into the hands of a relative few to the detriment of minorities especially, and the whole public in general.
Though they may be lousy at actually achieving it, liberals at least talk about making sure that power resides in the people. Democrats are known for fighting for voting rights, worker’s rights, poverty alleviation, affordable education, and a host of other platforms designed to increase the knowledge and power of the public. The effectiveness of many of these policies is much in question, but the public face is one of compassion for the plight of everyday people. The GOP uses similar rhetoric as the Democrats, but a close listen to and examination of conservative policies reveals that the GOP aim is to consolidate and concentrate power into the hands of a relatively small group of people and corporations. One of the most lionized conservative voices of all time, Ronald Reagan, even had a name for it — trickle-down economics. Conservatives may think that such a redistribution of power is in the best interests of the people but the problem is that when you concentrate power at the top, whether you do it through excessive government intervention or excessive government negligence, the end result is increased poverty and suffering as resources are either wasted or consolidated toward the top.
The primary fallacy of trickle-down economics and GOP economic policy in general is in thinking that a job is enough for someone to be economically secure. A job is good. But for many a job is not enough, especially not when compensation is eaten away by rising costs in health care, food, and fuel. A job is not enough if working conditions border on abusive or are excessively dangerous. A job is not enough if it requires people to sacrifice their dignity for a paycheck.
Power does not exist in a vacuum. Nor does it simply evaporate because the apparatus to wield it has been dismantled. Power will always find a locus. If it does not reside in the government, it will reside in business or strong civil institutions. And since this country contains no civil institutions capable of wielding power on such a scale, we fall into arguing over the present dichotomy — government or business.
Historically, minorities (notably black people) have been exploited by non-minority owned businesses. If we weren't exploited, we were ignored or abused, and we had little power to do anything about it directly. Until the Civil Rights Movement gained enough mass and momentum to create change, the laws all supported, in some fashion, segregation and inequality. For most of the 20th century, power resided with business owners and those law makers and enforcers that sided with them.
But then there came the triumph of the movement and significant change in the nation's laws. Government was finally living up to its promise and its purpose: protecting the people, in this case minorities, from abuse and persecution at the hands of those who held power, economic, or otherwise. The power dynamic was finally shifted so that a black person could make and spend a dollar without fear of unjust consequences being returned for just and equitable actions on the part of the minority. I’m not talking about extraordinary actions like exercising civil disobedience or even running for elected office. I’m talking about the simple actions of daily living — going to work, eating lunch in a restaurant, applying for a library card. The power shift fomented by the success of the Civil Rights Movement moved the power needle back towards the people.
But through the waning decades of the 20th century, conservative policy has shifted that needle back. Conservative policies such as the repeal of Glass-Steagal gave banks the ability to consolidate enough power that when they crashed, the entire global economy went with them. (Yes, the act repealing Glass-Steagal was signed by Bill Clinton, but it was put forth by conservatives.) Conservative policies have sought to reduce and remove worker protections such that union membership is now at its lowest point in decades. Conservative policies have sought to gerrymander voting districts to dilute the minority vote. In short conservative policies have had a singular objective over the past 30 years — to gut the power base of the people, especially that of minorities. That power flowed to entities who view people mainly as customers or wallets to be exploited for profit. In the process poverty, crime, and disinvestment in the urban neighborhoods where many minorities live have soared.
If Republicans ever hope to win any significant percentage of the minority vote they will have to address, in meaningful ways, the perception that they wish to return the country to a state in which the power dynamic heavily favors those entities that don’t have the best interests of minorities, or the general public, at the heart of their operations. They will have to demonstrate that they truly want to swing the needle of power not only in the direction of personal freedom (an admirable quality for a nation to possess) but also towards equity and justice for those without power.