White vote leaves GOP in the minority

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November 10, 2008

11:40 PM

The Republican party needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and decide for itself what it likes and what it can afford to change. One thing has become clear: It cannot continue on as the party that it has become and expect to win.

In this year’s epic election, there was a noticeable trend: The country has turned blue. Even fire-red states, such as Indiana and our own Virginia, couldn’t resist embracing the changing tide. Many people credit this change to the struggling economy, but the core of the matter is even simpler: While Republicans were appealing only to their base, the Democrats were embracing everyone.

Sen. John McCain managed to come out of this election with 20 states under his belt. A quick glance at these states shows that McCain was strong in southern states and midwestern states with low populations. These were all states that Pres. George W. Bush won in 2004; McCain failed to carry a single battleground state. The GOP has managed to hold onto its base at the cost of everyone else.

First, look at their campaign tactics. During this election, Sen. Barack Obama was portrayed as a Muslim by the right (not necessarily the party, though it did a poor job of rebutting the claims) because they knew this would strike fear into the hearts of many Americans and gain easy votes. They were willing to alienate Muslims in the process and give Democrats another voting block. The party had no problem portraying Obama as a terrorist and socialist in the same hopes of scaring voters. While this rallied the base, the election results showed that America was tired of the politics of fear.

Next, look at the color of GOP rallies. McCain’s campaign events drew largely white crowds. You could expect to see anything from cowboy hats and tractors to orange caps and motorcycles. While there is nothing wrong with that demographic, it is just that: A single demographic. Hispanics, traditional supporters of the Republican party, went blue this year. Black voters went blue as they typically do. Minorities as a whole flocked to the Democratic side. Bush assembled an ethnically diverse cabinet, but not even the Republicans talked about it. They gave up on the minority vote, and the minority vote gave up on them.

If the Republican party wants to remain a prominent national party, it cannot afford to let this happen again. Minorities are becoming a larger percentage of the population with each passing year. Within decades, minorities will comprise 50 percent of the population, and no party will be able to win with the white vote alone. The Republican party was originally the party that stood up for civil rights, but there are very few minority Republican congressmen. We live in a diverse nation, and the party in power should reflect the nation it leads.

We should vote based on the issues particular to each election, but that’s not the way the majority of the electorate works. When it’s time to cast a ballot, most voters base their votes on party affiliation. Independents and other voters who do not vote exclusively on party lines — the people who decide the election — often make their decisions based on the tone of both campaigns. What sounds more appealing to you, the message of hope or the tactics of division and fear? What better reflects America — a mixed crowd or one that is snow white? If the GOP wants to come back in 2012, it will have to extend its arms to everyone.

Bertel King, Jr. is a freshman at the College.

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