A New Face for the GOP?

It looks like the GOP is now starting to get the diversity of candidates they’ll need. While white conservatives certainly fueled their big 2010 victory, the Republicans also broadened their ethnic appeal by electing two black representatives in the South (Allen West in Florida and Tim Scott in South Carolina) for the first time since the Civil War era, and a black woman as lieutenant governor of Florida. They elected an Hispanic woman governor (Susan Martinez of New Mexico), an Asian woman governor (Nikki Haley of South Carolina), a Mexican-American governor (Brian Sandoval of Nevada), and three Mexican-American House members.  The Republicans even elected a Puerto Rican Mormon in Idaho, Congressman Raul Labrador.

This year, all of those congressional Republican minority incumbents are favored to win. And their numbers will grow: Ted Cruz is the overwhelming favorite to win a U.S. Senate seat in heavily Republican Texas, while in Utah, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (a black immigrant from Haiti and Mormon convert) has an even chance at becoming the first black Republican woman ever elected to Congress in a state Romney will win easily.

This is good news for all Americans who want to see politics move beyond racial considerations.  As Richard Ivory, a black Republican consultant, said, "Color is becoming less of an issue. ... There was a time when the white electorate saw race first and made judgments based on this alone. While black Republicans and Obama disagree ideologically, both are candidates whose message surpassed pigment."

While Romney isn’t expected to win many black votes against the first African-American president, a newer Republican Party could have a decent chance to win over some of the church-going black middle class in 2016 on social issues like gay marriage.

Maybe it’s the new Census figures, maybe it’s the influence of Marco Rubio, but the GOP is also now aggressively courting the Hispanic vote.  Was this a Republican National Convention or a meeting of the Hispanic Caucus?  More Spanish than ever was spoken from the podium by (among others) Texas Representative Francisco Canseco, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno, New Mexico Governor Martinez (who also thrilled the crowd with a paean to gun ownership), Craig Romney (Mitt’s youngest son who did missionary work in Chile), Jeb Bush, and Senator Marco Rubio.

Republicans seem to have woken up to the fact that they’ll need some Hispanic votes in Florida and the battleground states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada -- and they're adjusting their strategies accordingly. (If Cruz wins in Texas, the GOP will have two Hispanic senators, equaling the Democrats’ previous record of two.)

There was a saying about minority politics back in the 1970s and 1980s: the Democrats could take the black vote for granted precisely because the Republicans wrote it off -- and vice versa. That is no longer true in 2012. No one will be written off or taken for granted.

Both parties -- and all ethnic groups -- benefit when candidates compete for all voters. It is usually healthy for democracy when everyone’s voice is heard.