Former governor of Florida Jeb Bush has it right when he says that the Republican Party has to be more diverse and more inclusive to find its stride in the 21st century. His stance suggests that we should forget about the days of Ozzie and Harriet and begin to live in our current-day reality.
According to Gov. Bush the Party needs to find a voice among the emerging majority-minorities that represent the political world of the 2000s. Above all, he suggests a change in the tone and the way the Party addresses the issues of women, African-Americans and especially Latinos in order to avoid becoming a White Anglo-Saxon men’s club with less and less relevance in the American political landscape.
The polls bear out Bush’s perspective in the current presidential election campaigns. A recent Gallup poll shows Romney enjoying a 50 percent support to 42 percent for Obama among White men. But that is the only group where Romney has a lead. Among women, Obama has him 50 percent to 42 percent. Among African-Americans, Romney shows no measurable support while Obama enjoys 94 percent. But it is among Latinos that the stakes are the highest.
An NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Telemundo poll indicates President Obama is currently leading Gov. Romney 63 percent to 28 percent among Latinos. The expressed goal of the Romney campaign is to achieve at least 38 percent support in order to be successful.
The 38 percent goal for Latino support is roughly half-way between the 44 percent or so achieved by President George W. Bush in running for his second term and the 31 percent support received by Sen. John McCain in his unsuccessful run for office against Obama. While this might look like a reasonable goal, Romney has boxed himself into such a corner that it may be difficult to even maintain the current 28 percent.
Typical of that corner is Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” that offended the country and further alienated women from the Republican Party. It did not help that Congressman Paul Ryan, Romney’s choice as vice presidential candidate, co-sponsored with Akin legislation that in its original form also tried to redefine rape to the point that it could no longer be used as a reason for an abortion.
The Republican platform that will be voted in at the convention in Tampa forbids abortion for any reason and makes Latino immigrants unwelcome in America. That, together with Romney’s remarks about Latino immigrants coming to the United States to get a free meal and that they should self-deport makes the 38 percent goal a pipe dream.
Gov. Bush advocates for a major change in the tone of the campaign. Perhaps he is suggesting that the Republican National Convention is very good place to reinvent Romney and his message.
Perhaps there is room to change course toward more diversity and inclusiveness. On the other hand, perhaps Bush’s ideas are long-term as he has stated in an interview.
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the Romney campaign requires major repairs and the convention may be the place to make that happen. What is not clear is how one goes about fixing a campaign that is designed to serve the interests of a very narrow political spectrum.
The Romney campaign folks might want to ask Gov. Bush for more details about the issues of diversity and inclusiveness that he has raised. There is really nothing to lose because the present course is going to lead nowhere.