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Former South Carolina Republican Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley launched his candidacy for president recently in a video which began by describing the racial divide that marked his small hometown of Bamberg, South Carolina.
Meanwhile, another presumptive Republican candidate, the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis, has continued his crusade against “wake up ideology,” most recently on tour in pennsylvaniaNew York and Illinois, presenting himself as an advocate of law and order.
Taken together, these events present a fundamental question about the future of the Republican Party.
Does he continue to move to the right, stirring up his base by stoking white racial grievance?
Or do you follow a multi-racial strategy that can broaden the reach of the party?
Recent trends in the Republican Party suggest that it wants to do both, and that, in fact, the two strategies are not as at odds as they might seem.
Right-wing candidates of color on the rise
In a surprising development, Selected Michigan Republicans in February 2023, a Christian nationalist and election denier as state party chairman.
This shift to the right of the party is not in itself surprising.
The striking thing is that kristina karamoa black woman, was chosen over a white candidate who also had Trump’s endorsement.
The same voters who elevated Karamo also cheered Trump’s Supercharged Racist Rhetoric against blacks, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, and non-white countries in general during his campaigns and presidency.
And yet Karamo is not an anomaly.
While the party hasn’t made substantive changes or moderation in its policy or policies around longstanding racial justice issues, it is making slow but steady progress. increasingly racially diverse at its base, elected officials and opinion leaders.
In the 2022 midterm elections, for example, a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives was secured by a series of Black and Latino candidates who ran strong races while avoiding the label of extremist.
Although the US Senate race in Georgia saw a black Republican candidate herschel walker on the loose to Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, there were seven victorious Black or Latino Republican newcomers to the House, four of whom won seats previously held by Democrats.
Most notable among the growing number of Republican legislators of color is byron donalds, a two-term representative from Florida. Hey was nominated by a fellow Republican serve as Speaker of the House during the chaotic several days and 15 rounds of voting that preceded The choice of Kevin McCarthy to that role.
Relatively young and new to national politics, these Republican politicians are largely aligned with Trump on substantive issues.
What’s more, none downplayed the issue of race, instead they are using their biographies and experiences of racial discrimination to legitimize their conservative bona fides.
The Republican Party Race Card
In haley’s speechdenounced a national “self-loathing” that is “more dangerous than any pandemic” regarding the country’s racial history.
“Every day we are told that America is flawed, rotten and hateful,” Haley said. “Joe and Kamala even say that America is racist. Could not be farther from the truth. Trust me, the first female minority governor in history.”
Meanwhile, African American Republican Senator Tim Scott he also seems close to entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Like Haley, Scott uses his own biography to undermine Democratic claims to represent people of color.
“For those of you on the left,” Scott said in a February 2023 speech in Iowa, “You can call me accessory, you can call me token, you can call me the n-word. You can question my blackness. You can even call me ‘Uncle Tim’. He just understands, his words are no match for my evidence. … The truth of my life belies your lies.”
Neither Haley nor Scott are running like the color-blind conservatives of years gone by.
Both accept their racial identities and speak openly about racial issues and politics, with little damage to his electoral prospects. Both have won large pluralities of conservative white voters in their states.
But the road ahead is fraught with challenges and perplexing contradictions.
Will a national Republican constituency that has applauded a series of demeaning attacks on minority groups by its leadership support the candidacies of figures like Haley and Scott?
Color blind conservative voter?
survey program that approximately 70% of Republicans believe that the “grand replacement theory”, an unfounded belief that the Democratic Party is attempting to replace the white electorate in the United States with non-white immigrants.
Those same conservative voters are constantly motivated by white racial grievance on matters related to public education, law enforcement, voting rights, and affirmative action.
However, the studies also suggest that white conservatives will certainly support candidates of color, not because of a commitment to racial justice or even representation, but because they see it as a way to advance partisan and ideological interests.
A 2015 article in Quarterly Public Opinion presented data showing that these voters “are either more supportive of minority Republicans or just as likely to vote for a minority as they are for a white Republican.”
Similarly, a 2021 study showed that under the right conditions, “racially resentful [white] voters would rather vote for a black candidate over a white competitor.”
These studies suggest that the Republican electorate is fertile ground for certain candidates of color who can effectively tie their biographies to conservative accounts of self-improvement, opposition to social welfare, and demonization of liberalism and liberals.
color matter voters
What about voters of color?
Will they continue to view the Republican Party as a racist party inhospitable to their interests?
Exit polls after the 2020 election showed that Trump increased his gains among all groups of minority voters compared to 2016, capturing 1 in 4 voters of color nationally.
won the votes of almost 1 in 5 black menand about a third of the Asian-American and Latino electorate.
While Republican strategists and candidates try to creatively reframe the relationship of race with modern conservatism, none have articulated ideas or policies that directly address the issues facing most African Americans and other people of color.
Those problems include a predatory criminal justice systemthe evisceration of financing of health and educationthe existential threats of climate change other attacks on multiracial democracy.
It’s unclear if those topics will find a way to become conservative talking points.
What is clear is that political identities determine political interests, and not the other way around.
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