During the Republican National Convention of 2000, the GOP flaunted diversity. There were minority speakers, performers and delegates galore. The Republicans were trying to meet the challenge of presenting the “illusion of inclusion.” With this presentation, it allowed them to make an argument that the Democrats are taking the minority vote, specifically the Black vote, for granted.
In 2004, 290 of the party’s 4853 delegates and alternates were African American. This year that number dropped significantly. As the cameras panned the audience of the Xcel Energy Center, in Minneapolis, MN, it became apparent to the viewers that the audience did not look like the majority of Americans. It was obvious to viewers that the demographic was age 50+ and white. The numbers indicate that there were only 2300 delegates and 36 were African American. Based on the projected number of minorities in this country by 2040 which will out number their white counterparts, how does the GOP intend to survive?
Historically, African Americans were drawn to the Republican Party because it was the party of Lincoln. By the 1940s, the pendulum began to swing. Blacks began to leave the party because of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who had brought the country out of the Depression Era with the New Deal. The New Deal provided programs such as Social Security, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) and the Federal Housing Administration (FDA). These programs were successful for getting the country back on track and offered equal access and relief to minorities who also had the obstacle of ‘Jim Crow’ in the South. Because of the New Deal, many whites felt that this was allowing Blacks to advance which caused their support to weaken in the Democratic Party. Also, Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was an asset to the Democrats because she was socially progressive.
The other defining decision of minorities to convert happened in 1948 at the Democratic National Convention. As noted above, white support was already weakening in the Democratic Party. During the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Southern delegates were upset by President Harry S. Truman's executive order to racially integrate the armed forces. The Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey gave a speech urging the party to adopt an anti-segregationist plank, causing thirty five delegates from Mississippi and Alabama to walk out. When President Truman endorsed the civil rights plank, governor of South Carolina Strom Thurmond helped organize the walkout delegates into a separate party, whose platform was ostensibly concerned with states' rights.
The group of walkouts became formerly known as the Dixicrats. Their slogan was “segregation forever.” Although the Dixicrats dissolved after 1948, they assimilated into the Republican Party. When members like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms switched their party affiliation to Republican, their legacy remained imprinted on the minds of minorities. Although Republicans adopted a “conservative platform,” many see their policies and views comparable of those of the former ‘states rights party.’
Lastly, minorities’ affinity to the Democratic Party was sealed in the 1960s with the signing of the Civil & Voting Rights Act which abolished segregation and allowed all people to vote without intimidation. With the influence of Barry Goldwater, the Republican Nominee of 1964, the Republicans adopted their conservative platform based on the principles of his book, 'The Conscience of the Conservative.' His book outlined his opposition to Civil Rights. As a Senator, he voted against it because he did not agree with Title II which outlawed discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accomodations engaged in interstate commerce. Republicans aligned themselves as "Goldwater Conservatives." In the 1980s, these values were reshaped by Reagan. As the demographics of the country changes, it will be hard for the Republicans to move center away from their core structure in order to attract a culturally mixed base.
On Sunday (09/07/08), John McCain was on CBS Face The Nation. He was asked by Bob Schieffer, “how can you survive as a party if you become just the party of white people?”
Although McCain exclaims that he will become "the president of everybody,” it is not convincing when he is unable to answer questions like, “what have you done to improve lives of African-Americans?”
It will be hard to convince minorities to consider the Republican Party, if the party continues to practice the same politics. With that said, how will the RNC survive?