To many the Republican Party is nothing but a bunch of old white guys. To hear the Democrats describe us, you’d think they were talking about Ted Knight’s Judge Smalls at Bushwood.
I’m proud to say, despite what might be blaring from your television, this ain’t your father’s GOP anymore. I’m going to brag for just a moment about an organization I’m involved with and I do so to bring hope to the Republicans out there who are concerned about the long term viability of our party and know that if we want to be the majority party in America we need to have a big tent and not a beach umbrella.
The Republican State Leadership Committee operates two programs that get me fired up every time I hear about them; the Future Majority Project and Right Women, Right Now.
The Future Majority Project seeks to recruit, train and support candidates of diverse ethnicity at the state level – so that our candidates reflect the changing face of America. Electing these men and women to state office will build the bench team of future Republican leaders. Last election cycle the FMP recruited 244 candidates and saw 43 of them sworn into office. Some were majority makers, helping to flip a blue statehouse into the red column like Jill Upson, an African-American woman in West Virginia. Candidates like Niraj Antani of Ohio and Daniela Garcia in Michigan were key races in swing states. Others like Janet Nguyen of California were pickups in predominately Blue states.
Right Women Right Now does the exact same thing with women candidates. Since it started in 2012, RWRN has recruited nearly 900 women candidates and elected 222 new women to state office. Iowa’s own Lt Governor Kim Reynolds co-chairs this initiative and has set a goal of recruiting 500 women for the 2016 election. One key element of the program is the peer mentorship of women helping women become better candidates and navigating various issues and criticisms that men don’t have to deal with.
I think that is exciting stuff, and will build the Republican Party into a true majority party. But it’s not happening only at the state level. At our gathering last week Ana Navarro, a CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, reminded the audience, “Despite what the media will have you believe, the Republican Party has made great strides on the diversity front. We have Hispanic Congresspeople from non-Hispanic places like Idaho and Washington State. We have two Hispanic and one African American US Senators. We have two Latino Governors. We have Latino Lt. Governors. Our Presidential field is a political Noah’s Ark – there’s at least one of every specimen. We have a woman, we have an African-American, we have three candidates in their 40’s, we have two Hispanics, and we have Jeb Bush who but for his inability to dance, is quasi-Hispanic. ‘”
To squeals of Republican delight Navarro contrasted that with the Democrats who have one state-wide elected Hispanic, Senator Bob Menendez who is under indictment and a “presidential field, well, it’s 50 Shades of white. With Democrats, you have a lot of choices. You can choose from: old white and boring; young white and boring; old white and socialist.”
Navarro’s point is the Republican Party is more diverse than often perceived, but in politics perception is reality. And though the GOP has a deep bench of diverse office holders and candidates, its not coming across on Election Day. Given the gender gap, the age gap, and the gap Republicans have with Hispanic and African-American voter, Navarro suggested the department store should sue the GOP for trademark infringement.
Navarro went on to point out that having diversity in our party is important, but representing diversity doesn’t mean that you have to be a woman, African-American, Hispanic or an immigrant. It means we have to pay attention to the problems confronting these folks, listen to them, and then take action. Often times it can be as simple as letting people know that you like them and that you care about their problems – no voter is going to support you if they believe you are hostile to them and indifferent to the challenges they face. Would you?
What is frustrating is that all the hard work the RSLC, the folks working on the Future Majority Project and women mentors traveling across the country for Right Women Right Now can be set back by one careless word on broadcast television. While the people working hard everyday have to grind it out, meeting and working with candidate after candidate after candidate – all unseen; one talking head in prime time can unravel all of their efforts. It’s not fair, but that’s life. That’s why I wanted to share this with you, so those who may happen to stumble across this column will hear about the good work going on to grow our party past the gates of Bushwood and reflect the growth in America – the great melting pot.