It’s almost like the left’s commitment to diversity is a dishonest political vehicle aimed only at delegitimizing their opponents. Almost.
In 2012, the GOP presidential field’s lack of diversity — perhaps the least interesting form of diversity, but one which nevertheless enjoys near religious devotion from the left — did not go unmentioned by partisan Democrats.
As early as 2009, the left was salivating at the opportunity to see Barack Obama challenge what looked likely to be a field of predominantly white, aging, and nearly exclusively male candidates. While the smug, self-satisfied liberal elite was robbed of a cherished opportunity for self-congratulations by the lack of a purely monochromatic GOP field in 2012, the Republican Party’s defeats in that election year nevertheless buoyed the left’s hopes for the future.
Today, however, the GOP has remarkably self-corrected. To borrow a ubiquitous phrase that Democrats deployed with abandon in 2012, the GOP presidential field looks a lot more like the America they are hoping to represent.
As of this writing, the GOP’s field of declared presidential candidates includes two Hispanics in their 40s, a woman from California, and an African-American neurosurgeon. The only declared GOP candidate with a majority ethnic background, Rand Paul, isn’t even an old white guy. Even he fails to comport with the tired stereotypes that satisfy the fragile self-images of insecure campus liberals.
“2016 is shaping up to be a year of historic diversity for Republicans, setting the party apart from the all white line-up that’s emerging on the Democratic side,” CNN observed grimly. “But the biggest question is whether a diverse slate of candidates will actually help the GOP overcome its demographic problem, which has contributed to losses at the presidential level in two successive elections.”
“If the overwhelmingly white crowd that gathered here for Carson’s announcement at Detroit’s Music Hall for the Performing Arts is any guide, the GOP hasn’t yet landed on a quick fix,” the report continued.
And, with that, the goalposts that were once here are now over there… somewhere. Whereas the slate of Republican candidates were once so unrepresentative of America that they couldn’t be taken seriously, now it is the fact that the white majority is generally more supportive of Republicans than Democrats that is the GOP’s true political obstacle. Do you sense a common thread here yet?
“Democrats aren’t the ones with the demographic problem,” NPR’s Dominico Montanaro asserted. “It’s no secret the GOP has had trouble attracting minority voters, especially now amid rapid racial changes, including the growth of Latinos and Asian-Americans.”
“It has had success electing minorities to prominent positions, so it is trying to highlight them,” he continued. “That could help blunt some of the diversity attacks routinely lobbed Republicans’ way.”
Still, the party is largely homogenous, and that’s even more pronounced in early presidential nominating states. Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2012 were 99 percent white, according to entrance and exit polls. South Carolina was 98 percent white. But whites are shrinking as a share of the electorate and are projected in 2016 to be below 70 percent for the first time.
A Time report indicates that the GOP is still trying to play the left’s game. The expansive slate of 2016 Republican presidential candidates presents a vexing problem for those trying to winnow the field ahead of the debates. To impose a threshold of support in polls on the field is to see candidates like Carly Fiorina, who lack much support and little name recognition, eliminated. And the Republican Party’s brass wants to show as much diversity on the debate stage as possible.
But the slate of candidates admirably wants to avoid playing identity politics. Fiorina has mocked Hillary Clinton’s gender-centric campaign. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal refuses to be identified as a hyphenated American. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both eschew ethnicity-based appeals to the electorate. This is noble, and it would be foolish for the party to blunt this meritocratic message by elevating candidates to the debate stage who fit a preferred demographic profile.
If the left has demonstrated anything, it is that consistency is no virtue when it comes to racial and gender politics. Republicans’ problem isn’t that they aren’t diverse; it is that they are Republicans. The GOP would do well to seek not to play the self-defeating identity politics game, but to destroy it.