PI Original Ashlee Rezin Thursday February 14th, 2013, 4:28pm

Are Republicans Really Courting The Minority Vote?

A lack of minority presence in the Republican Party and a poor turnout of non-white voters has prompted many to question the party’s ability to reach out, and forced Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, to travel to Atlanta and speak to black voters.

A lack of minority presence in the Republican Party and a poor turnout of non-white voters has prompted many to question the party’s ability to reach out, and forced Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, to travel to Atlanta and speak to black voters.

“A lot of minority views are in line with the Republican Party, but the party does not do a good enough job feeding that message to the minorities — it’s almost like they’re scared to reach out,” said Sahar Hekmati, founder of Georgia Hispanic Republicans. Born in Afghanistan, Hekmati has been here since 1987 and has three children younger than 16 years of age. Her oldest daughter serves as secretary for the Georgia Teen Republicans.

Following President Barack Obama's decisive victory in the 2012 election, Priebus’ stop in Atlanta was the first step in Republicans’ courtship of black voters. But Hekmati said she was disappointed Hispanics, and specifically the Georgia Hispanic Republicans, were not invited.

“We are going to have to work hard if this party is going to move forward,” she said. “Something is going to have to give, either they are going to have to wake up or they are going to lose the voice of the little people and they will be stuck losing election after election.”

At a February 7 meeting inside the Georgia Pacific building in downtown Atlanta, Priebus spoke of "changing the course” of the mostly white, male-dominated Republican party.

"I don't think this is going to be a cheap process," said Priebus in a press conference. "I think it's going to be broad, big, bold and expensive. No matter what the issue is, no matter where the voters are, you have to be in the community. You have to ask for the sale on a year-round basis, not just three months before an election."

In 2008, 140 million Americans — a staggering 65 percent of the registered electorate — cast their votes to elect the first African American to the oval office, Democratic President Barack Obama.

Obama won 95 percent of the African American vote nationwide in 2008, and in 2012 he was reelected with 93 percent of the African American vote.

“A third of the African American population is in poverty,” said D-Andra Orey, professor of political science at Jackson State University in Mississippi and member of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. “And because of a collective racial identity, many African Americans who have made it understand the plight of their cousins or brothers who have not, so they continue to support the same policies that embrace the poverty line — polices, like welfare and affirmative action, that Democrats have traditionally supported.”

“The Republican Party tends to be extremely conservative in terms of economics, and many feel that because of the huge inequality along the lines of economics, especially in respect to wealth, the Democratic Party has been more supportive of government intervention to create safety nets for struggling populations,” he said.

Orey also said a history of racism within the Republican Party contributes to minority opposition at the polls.

In the 2012 re-election of President Barack Obama, 72 percent of the voters were white, but one out of every 10 was Hispanic, according to exit polls. Only 27 percent of Hispanics voted for the Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“We need to change and reevaluate how we, as Republicans, are translating our message to Hispanic voters,” said Gloria Campos, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party in Michigan and vice-chairman of the Latino National Republican Coalition.

“Majority of Hispanic families have conservative views and we just need to plant the seed of who and what we are,” said Campos, a Nicaragua native. “The bottom line is that when you look at the Hispanic community itself, it should not be taken for granted. Obviously right now the Democrats are looking at us like ‘we got this thing in the bag,’ but we learn something new every election cycle and we’re ready to rock and roll.”

An estimated 2.3 million Asian Americans turned out to vote for the Democratic Party for the 2012 election, over the 900,000 who voted for the GOP nominee. Obama won with 71 percent of the Asian vote over Romney’s 28 percent, according to a survey by the Asian American Justice Center, Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote, and the National Asian American Survey.

But, according to the post-election survey, 46 percent of registered voters polled and 43 percent of those who voted said they do not identify with either major party, and according to Tuyet Le, executive director of the Asian American Institute, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, there is a significant lack of outreach to the Asian American community from both parties.

“Not just in the Asian American community but across the board, people won’t want to vote if they feel like their vote doesn’t matter, and that only get’s perpetuated if nobody talks about you as a voter,” she said.

Le said that although she saw very little campaigning targeted specifically toward the country’s fastest growing ethic group, Asian Americans, “there was slightly more reach from the Democrats than the Republicans, but there was rare contact.”

“Generally speaking, Asian Americans see themselves as having racial discrimination targeted towards them, and see the message of the Democrats’ allows more of a level playing field,” Le, a Vietnamese American, said. “In terms of immigration and the idea of self-deportation that Romney put out — our legislators need to recognize that people come here and do the best they can and work very hard.”

 “The government still plays a role in creating a fair playing field for minorities in this country,” she said.

Image: AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Adam Eschbach


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