When Rand Paul told Missouri Republicans over the weekend that they needed more people with earrings and tattoos he was merely spinning the postmortem released by the Republican National Committee following the 2012 presidential election.
Speaking at the annual Lincoln Days Convention in Springfield, Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky and likely future presidential candidate, told the GOP faithful that “we need a party that looks like America.”
Paul, not the first person who comes to mind when you think of a Republican voice of reason, is right on point. If Republicans are serious about expanding their base, it is critical that they craft a better message that appeals to a more diverse audience — especially minorities.
If they want to take back the White House in 2016 they had better improve their standing with blacks, Hispanic, and Asian Americans as well as those with earrings and tattoos.
Why? The answer is simple arithmetic, according to RNC Chair Reince Priebus. By the year 2050, the United States will be a majority-minority country. In both 2008 and 2012 President Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority groups.
Democrats don’t have problems embracing minorities. They have planted their flag in the middle of the scrum of diversity. Republicans too often appear to be the party of angry, old white males.
If Republicans want a bigger tent they need better minority outreach, softer rhetoric, and support for comprehensive immigration reform. Or as Paul put it, “We need to be a more accepting party.”
If they want to grow their party, Republicans need to be less extreme on a host of issues and the candidates they select. That’s a daunting challenge for a party that has struggled recently with unity and which has been beset by factions within it that believe the GOP should be even more rigid.
Case in point: While Paul was arguing for acceptance, Ted Nugent, the “Motor City Madman” and Washington Town and Country Fair fan favorite, was apologizing for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
How is that for acceptance?
The outspoken gonzo rock musician made the comment over a month ago but was pressured to apologize when it became an issue while he campaigned with Republican Texas gubernatorial hopeful and state Attorney General Greg Abbott.
While it is easy to dismiss Nugent’s comments as an isolated incident, it illustrates the difficulties the GOP faces with minority outreach. Our guess is there are a lot of Republicans out there who agree with Uncle Teddy’s description of the president.
The bad news for them is that the number of folks who believe that kind of rhetoric is repulsive is larger — and growing.