CEPEDA: Tips for GOP outreach

Esther J. Cepeda

Esther J. Cepeda

CHICAGO -- Of all the morning-after fretting about the future of the Republican Party's relevance in a majority-minority country, GOP strategist Chuck Warren's comment was my favorite: "To be frank, we're a 'Mad Men' party in a 'Modern Family' world."

That's a clever way to describe what many in the Republican Party have been saying for a long time -- that there's no way for the GOP to swim against the current demographic tide.

A similar day-after treat was Newt Gingrich preaching what's been apparent to everyone, it seems, except party elders. He told The Wall Street Journal that the GOP had to figure out how to connect with minority voters and "simply has to learn" to appear more inclusive to minorities, and Hispanics in particular.

Amen, Newt -- but with a caveat. "Appear" more inclusive? No, that's nowhere near good enough. The Republican Party has to actually be more inclusive, and it can't make the mistake of courting Hispanics at the expense of other minority populations.

Easier said than done, sure. But though the task isn't easy, it is pretty simple. The Republicans need only stick to a simple trifecta of inclusiveness -- just remember what all constituents desire from their leaders: To be "connected, respected and reflected."

I heard this little nugget of wisdom at a round-table discussion I participated in last month, "The Power of the Multicultural Consumer," about new Nielsen consumer research on Asian-Americans, Hispanics and blacks. It was dropped in passing by Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Nielsen's senior vice president of public affairs and government relations, who was kind enough to tell me more about her secret recipe in the wake of the Republicans' new goal of minority outreach.

"Being 'connected' to people of other backgrounds means you can't just talk at people, you have to get them to feel something that makes them think that you understand their culture," Pearson-McNeil said.

One good way to start is to dig deep into the mountains of data on the three largest minority groups and learn what they're really about, as opposed to what you've always assumed you knew about them.

For instance, blacks, the voting group with the longest history in America, is a deeply misunderstood, socioeconomically diverse electorate that, it seems, the Republican Party has ignored since Barack Obama was elected president.

Has there ever been a better time than now to try to capitalize on the disillusionment and doubt so many blacks felt as they re-elected a president who has been widely criticized for not embracing their issues in order to avoid showing favoritism?

"'Respected' means you have to value and respect me full-time, not just during Black History Month or Asian-American Month," Pearson-McNeil said.

I've complained plenty about selective "heritage month" attention, but Asian-Americans are an example of a minority group that is overlooked altogether. In all the hubbub about the Latino vote -- and as the black vote was being taken for granted -- the fastest-growing racial group in the country was again left out of the conversation.

On Election Day, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development sent out a news release reiterating the quadrennial fact that the majority of Asian-Americans were not asked by any campaign, political party or community organization to vote or to register to vote. Talk about a missed opportunity with a population that boasts the highest average sales and hiring among all immigrant-owned businesses.

Finally, "'Reflected' means that I can see myself, my culture, my lifestyle in whatever you're doing," said Pearson-McNeil. In truth, the Republicans actually did a pretty good job of this in one case with the number of diverse national political leaders -- Hispanic, Indian-American and black -- who spoke at the national convention in Tampa.

But obviously this is not enough. The GOP's young leaders have to school their party elders on the prerequisite mind-shifts for connecting, reflecting and respecting: Hispanics are not all immigrants and not all immigrants live here illegally, Muslim-Americans cannot be routinely smeared with the term "terrorist" and no politician needs to learn a foreign language to reach out -- our common language is English. See? Not easy, but simple.

Esther J. Cepeda is a nationally syndicated columnist. Email her at estherjcepeda@washpost.com.


kevin 2 years, 9 months ago

Maybe you need some tips too! The GOP doesn't go after people and lie to them like the Democrats have. We stand by our American Constitution and principals without waiver. It is not their culture we don't understand (come and get it for free). What did Obama do for them? If special groups like Hispanics, blacks, and Asians need a candidate to give everything away to them get their votes, then forget it lady. Romney didn't divide and conquer like the Liberals did with the help of you and the media. Obama gave nothing to the Hispanics but they still voted him. You should tell all those minorities about that little fact you forgot, that their kids have inherited billions in Obama created debt. How will they handle that? I would not sell my soul for votes like the Liberals have done by using our tax money to buy votes and the media to lie for them. By the way, you must be writing about the 47% that do not want to work and are satisfied with free handouts, getting it either by legal or illegal means. There are many Asians, Hispanics, and blacks that make plenty of money and are happy with a capitalistic society to better themselves. Remember, illegals came here to better themselves, not to live on welfare from a socialist government. Romney was going to try to create jobs for people to work, not for them to stay on welfare with no respect. Obama failed in doing this and never passed a single law for illegals. Not the GOP's fault if they are too ignorant to think for themselves. You should have communicated with your Hispanic community to convince them Romney was going to help them, which he was, not sit back and point fingers at the GOP. I respect people who stick by their principals, not the other way around.


JV 2 years, 9 months ago

There are two type of conservatives and unlike liberals, they do not always vote together. There are fiscal conservatives and there are social conservatives. Social conservatives will not vote for a fiscal conservative who is not a social conservative as well. Romney like McCain is not a social conservative. That left only the fiscal conservative vote which at this point in history is not enough to elect a president. This along with 47 percent of the voters out of reach of any type conservative candidate, doesn’t leave much of a future for the GOP. And that is a the sad part of current USA.


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