People focus on the lack of ethnic diversity within the Republican Party as a major problem impeding the GOP. However, the party’s lack of diversity overall may have proven to impact the nation starting with the government shutdown October 1.
Over the past several years (some will say since 2012, others will say since 2008, while still others will say since 1968), the rousing rhetoric concerning the Republican Party’s woes in many national elections hone in on its lack of diversity – both within party leadership and with its circle of elected officials. And yes, there is a point there: as long as the United States continues to become more ethnically-diverse over the years ahead, there is a pressing need for the party to be active in looking more like America. Years such as 2009 (the election of Michael Steele to the head of the RNC) and 2010 (the election of several candidates of color, including Senator Tim Scott and Governor Susana Martinez) served as “what-if” moments for the GOP and the nation, providing a glimpse of potential break-through opportunities to make the party more affable to minorities.
Yet, for all of the attention given to the party’s ongoing successes and failures concerning the infusion of inclusion into its base and leadership, the void of diversity continues to rear its ugly head – this time in the Obamacare Shutdown that the nation experiences as of October 1.
Simply put: a diversity of ethnicity is great – and much needed – within the GOP, but without a diversity of opinion and perspective within the conservative movement, the Republican Party will remain stuck in a rut.
In some instances, the nation will find itself in that rut along with the GOP.
The inability for more Republicans on Capitol Hill to articulate and activate alternative approaches to Obamacare before Senator Ted Cruz’s filibuster last week or the government shutdown as of October 1 has played a decisive (although not sole) role in getting us where we are today. While Democrats should shoulder some of the responsibility for how the Affordable Care Act scenario has played out since 2009 (from procedural wrangling to questionable deal-making and exceptions), Republicans wear the label of shame for its inability to foster an image as a party of ideas, not a group of obstructionists. My party’s inability over the past few years to show a diversity of perspectives and approaches within the confines of true conservatism has limited Republicans at the ballot box in November, but also in public polls when taking on legislative battles.
Diversity within the conservative movement has morphed towards having a definition that includes having more ethnic people within the party that still think exactly alike with no deviation from the conservative script that has cost Republicans winnable seats in 2006, 2008, and 2012. American conservatism should be bigger than that current definition – and when it was successfully applied for advancing the American Dream for a wide range of Americans, it was not interpreted as narrowly as it is today.
The diversity that the Republican Party needs – both for its own sake as well as for a better political dynamic that benefits the American people – is a diversity that incorporates diversity of color and diversity of thought, both captured within the philosophical parameters that allowed Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Edward Brooke, and Jack Kemp to share the same party allegiance. Such diversity during these rocky times for the Republican brand would allow more wiggle room for solutions when caught between a rock (e.g., Obamacare being law) and a hard place (e.g., the conservative base’s fervent opposition to the ACA). Conservatism based on the freedom afforded by the Constitution must go back to freeing us to create the solutions necessary to ensure the “…pursuit of happiness…” – solutions that benefit all Americans, not just satisfy ones living in red states or Republican-leaning districts. Even if Democrats never do this, Republicans must do so immediately, as we are the ones with the brand deficit problem – and now once again holding the blame for more woes in Washington.
At some point, fellow conservatives – from grassroots activists to elected officials – must understand and accept that true diversity within conservative thought is not akin to being a RINO (Republican In Name Only) or adding people of color for the sake of looking more inclusive. It is for the sake of effective political survival and civic leadership in the 21st century in the long term. For now, it would help us look more like leaders than obstructionists when facing issues such as a government shutdown or a debt ceiling crisis.
LENNY MCALLISTER ( @lennymcallister ) is an internationally-recognized political commentator and former congressional candidate featured on several national and international outlets including Canada’s Sun News Network, CNN, Radio New Zealand and Sirius-XM Radio. His daily podcast “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” can be found 12pm Eastern on www.LennyMcAllister.com. Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” regularly on The American Urban Radio Network.