Reince Priebus gets it.
At the Republican National Committee conference in Los Angeles last week, the Chair of the Republican Party spoke about his vision for a future in which the old caricature of the “Grand Old Party” gives way to the new, more inclusive “Growth and Opportunity Party.”
The conference came off the heels of the release of a wide-ranging 100-page analysis and examination of the party’s electoral efforts in 2012. It was the most comprehensive post-election review in the history of any national political party. It was honest, thorough and totally unprecedented.
The report listed over two hundred actionable recommendations for Republicans at the state and national level. Chief amongst them was the development of a new field operation to focus on community-level engagement with minorities.
To that end, Chairman Priebus announced an initial $10 million investment this year to build a field operation, and the creation of new national Field and Communications Directors for the Hispanic, African American and Asian American communities.
The importance of this capital investment cannot be overstated: in the $1 billion 2012 campaign, much less than 1 percent of Republicans’ total budget was spent on Hispanic or other demographic group oriented media. At one point during the campaign, Obama’s Organizing For America organization was outspending Republicans 8 to 1 in those media markets.
That Republicans need to revamp our minority outreach efforts is a truism; that the RNC has taken meaningful, measurable action toward that end – and backed up that action with considerable capital – should be heartening to any Republican worried about our future.
Chairman Priebus was also right when he said that the party can change its tone without abandoning its principles (“recalibration without recapitulation,” as I once argued on this page).
As President George W. Bush used to say, “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande ... and a hungry mother is going to try to feed her child.” His tone, coupled with the longstanding relationship with Hispanics he built as governor, demonstrated to the Hispanic community that Republicans cared equally about all Americans.
Because his tone was inclusive and his effort to build a relationship was long-term, Hispanic Americans were willing to listen to his principles and policies on education, jobs, spending and other issues.
This path is still open to us; it was only eight years ago that President Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, a modern-day record for a Republican presidential candidate.
Hispanics – and indeed all minorities – need to hear that our Party wants no less for them than for any other American.
Our biggest challenge going forward will be the fact that our outreach efforts are not taking place in a vacuum. Our political opposition continues to promote a misrepresentation of Republicans as a party for those at the top of the economic ladder.
But our dream of a better life is for all Americans. And our message to them is simple:
If you’re willing to defend liberty and champion growth and opportunity, if you believe in a smaller, more efficient government that lives within its means and answers to the people, then you have a home in the Republican Party.
David Laska is Director of Communications for the Republican Party of New York State.