This Nov. 17, 2012, file photo shows Sen. Marco Rubio speaking in Altoona, Iowa.
After a resounding defeat in the 2012 presidential election and shifting national demographics, Republicans are playing catch-up on outreach to minority voters. This is a move that many younger Republicans hope will keep the Grand Old Party from becoming a Grand Old Memory.
“I think the Republican Party has to change the tone,” said Gus Portela, regional Midwestern vice-chairman of the College Republican National Committee.
Portela, who was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, sees many challenges facing the GOP as demographic projections show a shift to a more racially and ethnically diverse nation.
According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, the populations of all ethnic and racial groups will increase significantly between now and 2060 except for non-Hispanic whites.
The most substantial increase is projected in the Hispanic population, which is expected to double from 53.3 million in 2012 to 128.8 million in 2060. If this prediction were to hold true, nearly one in every three U.S. residents would be Hispanic, compared to one in six currently.
Portela says that instead of using harsh rhetoric about social issues, the main focus on the party should be on reinforcing the message that the GOP is a party of “economic freedom” and job creation — a message he says will resonate with minorities and young people alike.
“Speaking only about social issues won’t help the economy,” Portela said.
Portela points to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent immigration reform proposals, which he thinks shows the GOP moving in the right direction on reaching out to the Hispanic community.
Former secretary of State Colin Powell criticized the Republican Party Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press for having a “dark vein of intolerance.”
Powell said that his comments were aimed at those in the Republican Party who “still sort of look down on minorities.”
He went on to say that even though he is still a Republican, he believes the GOP is having an “identity problem.”
“They are stuck on ideas that they don’t want to change,” said Justin Perez, a spokesperson for University Democrats at the University of Texas at Austin.
Perez said he believes that while college-aged Republicans seem to be more progressive, particularly on social issues, it is still not seen on a national level. Hispanics, he said, may be more traditionally socially conservative are turned off by extreme language from the GOP about immigration, and thus move toward the Democratic Party.
Danny Zeng, vice president for College Republicans at UT-Austin, doesn’t see what he calls the “core tenants” of social conservatism, family and responsibility, to be a bad thing for the party.
But he admits that “heavy religious undertones” that define the conversation can turn people away.
“[Older Republicans] need to balance their interests with younger people who don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye,” Zeng said.
Zeng and Portela both agree that young Republicans have an easier job when it comes to finding common ground on issues because they are still forming opinions about where the GOP should stand on public policy in the future.
“College Republicans have a unique responsibility to the country and party to bring out ideas,” Zeng said. “We are at a point where we can ask questions.”
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