Friday, May 31, 2013

Republicans Use Race-Based Affirmative Action to Attract Latino Candidates

Race-based affirmative action is a four-letter word for most conservatives. In fact, most conservatives would probably consider modifying the phrase "affirmative action" with the qualifier "race-based" redundant. Typically, conservatives only target race-conscious affirmative action plans, even though this practice often involves many categories, including sex/gender, poverty, and (increasingly) sexual orientation.

Even though affirmative action is an anathema to contemporary conservative ideology, the GOP has openly embraced this instrument in order to diversify its ranks. Returns from the 2012 election showed that the vast majority of persons of color voted for Democratic candidates. Also, projected demographic patterns predict a substantial increase in the voting power of persons of color. This is especially true in some important Republican states, such as North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. The growth in Latino voters in those states could make it impossible for Republicans to win national office unless significant numbers of these voters are attracted to GOP candidates.

In response to this reality, Republican leadership has decided to target Latino voters -- apparently deciding that they have no chance of capturing significant numbers of black voters and that the number of Asian-American voters is too small to concern them. Since the election, Republican leaders have made repeated calls for the party to "reach out" to Latinos. Now, they have put money behind this effort.

Today, the GOP announced a national plan to recruit Latino political candidates to the GOP. The Future Majority Project announced that it would spend $6 million to attract Latinos. The Republican State Leadership Committee, which works to increase the number of Republicans holding state political office, operates The Future Majority Project. The project has used similar efforts in the past to recruit women (and even Latino) candidates).

It is difficult to distinguish this initiative from affirmative action. Like affirmative action, this initiative will give Latinos special resources to increase their numbers in state political office. Similarly, schools offer scholarships or special admissions consideration to qualified applicants of color in order to achieve academic diversity. Employers offer jobs or special consideration to qualified persons of color in order to ensure workplace diversity.

The Supreme Court has held that affirmative action is legal to achieve diversity in higher education. Conservatives, however, loathe any consideration of race by state and private parties. This initiative is certainly protected as political speech. Liberal commentators have similarly argued that affirmative action at universities should be analyzed under the Right of Association, which is shielded by the First Amendment (just like political speech). Nonetheless, conservatives remain generally opposed to affirmative action -- unless it is necessary to achieve political victories for the Republican Party.

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