Base Turnout and Minority Outreach Need Not Contradict Each Other

My colleague Matt Boyle takes issue with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for focusing on minority outreach when he and Mitt Romney failed to turn out the Republican Party’s base in 2012–by which I take him to mean white voters. Respectfully, I think Matt conflates two issues here: 1. whether to reach out to minority voters; 2. whether immigration reform is the way to encourage minorities to support the Republican Party.

On #2, I agree with Matt. The conventional wisdom among Beltway Republicans is that if the party does not support immigration reform, largely as the left prescribes it, the GOP will lose an opportunity to gain inroads into a rapidly expanding constituency. That premise appears in the Republican Party’s post-election autopsy, for example, though there is no evidence to support it considerable post-1986 evidence against it. 

Minority voters support Democrats over Republicans because while many are socially conservative, they are attracted to the Democrats’ redistributionist, state-centered economic philosophy. 

Obamacare, for example, was a key selling point for the president among Hispanic voters in 2012 (though there is some polling evidence to suggest that they are rapidly turning against Obama following the failures of his signature policy).

That does not mean that Republicans should give up on minority voters, however–and here is where we get to point #1, on which I disagree strongly with Matt. 

Reaching out to minority voters and appealing to the party’s core constituency are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are many white voters who would feel discomfort voting for a candidate who ignored minority communities in an obvious or embarrassing fashion.

Take Bill Brady, for example, a highly-qualified Illinois State Senator who won the Republican primary for governor in 2010. Brady had a winning message for a state in deep financial trouble. He expected to catch the Tea Party wave, and focused on turning out his conservative suburban and downstate base. He avoided Cook County and Chicago almost entirely, specifically declining to spend much time in the black community.

The result was that while Illinois elected a Republican, Mark Kirk, to fill Barack Obama’s old Senate seat, the same voters turned Brady down in favor of Democratic hack Pat Quinn, who had been elevated to governor after Rod Blagojevich’s political demise. Some of the voters who split their tickets were minority voters. Many were also suburban voters who did not see themselves as part of Brady’s conservative “base” coalition.

There is another, more fundamental reason for Republicans to be visible in minority communities: they are most in need of conservative ideas and policies. Look at the movement that has developed around school choice, for example, where persistent advocacy for the poorest and most vulnerable has given conservative reformers a foothold in previously “no-go” territory. There are countless other issues with similar potential.

There may not be many votes on offer in those communities. But while it is easy enough for conservative pundits to complain about the neglected base, those actually in the arena–i.e. running for office or for re-election–do not have the luxury of neglecting any of their constituents, even those that did not vote for them. 

Paul Ryan understands that. So does Ted Cruz. So did Barack Obama, who is fighting for his agenda in Texas. 

I could not say it better than Brandon Darby, a Breitbart News contributor (and former leftist) who has spent considerable time working on conservative outreach to minorities. 

Brandon says: “The need for the Right to enter diverse communities and interact, address problems they are facing through community-led solutions, and not just do so near an election, is exactly why Andrew Breitbart and I started a nonprofit to connect predominantly white Tea Party groups and other liberty minded individuals with other communities.

“Such efforts not only help to spread liberty by breaking down the Left’s dehumanization of the Right, but they also fire up the Right due to actual models of addressing poverty being shown instead of empty criticisms of wasteful federal efforts.” 

That is more powerful than offering amnesty. And it can and must be done.