September 17, 1997 in Nation/World

Gop Renews Effort To Attract Minorities Party Has Better Chance Now Than In Past, Gingrich Says

Robert Shogan Los Angeles Times
 

Counting on growing disillusionment with traditional government social programs even among their intended beneficiaries, Republican leaders on Tuesday launched their latest effort to broaden the GOP’s appeal to minority voters.

“The failure of the old order is so much clearer,” House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said at a news conference in arguing that the party’s newly unveiled New Majority Council stands a better chance of attracting minority support than similar endeavors in the past.

“I think it’s very hard for anyone to go into (minority) communities anymore and say public housing has worked and your schools are terrific,” Gingrich said.

The council, consisting of minority business and community leaders as well as politicians, is envisioned as the vehicle for getting the Republican message out to black, Latino and Asian voters. It also will seek to recruit minority candidates.

GOP strategists contend they are on the right side of a number of issues that appeal to minority voters. In particular, they cite Republican advocacy of school choice - the idea of giving parents public funds to help pay tuition at private schools.

“Fifty-seven percent of black people in this country say they support this,” Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson said. “And it’s something the Democratic Party can’t support because they are too beholden to the labor bosses,” he added, referring to Democratic ties to teacher unions that view such financial support for private schools as threatening the job received in 1988 against Democrat Michael Dukakis.

Lee Atwater counted heavily on upwardly mobile blacks leading a substantial defection from Democratic ranks. But running for re-election in tough economic times in 1992, Bush made no significant gain in black support. Nor did the 1996 Republican nominee, Bob Dole.

With a few exceptions, such as Ohio Gov. George Voinovich, who won 40 percent of the black vote in his successful 1994 re-election campaign, most Republican candidates have trouble getting as much as 15 percent of the black vote in their communities, according to David Bositis, senior analyst for the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies, a Washington think tank.

Nor are the numbers more encouraging for Republicans among office holders. Of 550 black state legislators, only 50 are Republicans, said Bositis, who was invited to attend a closed meeting of Republicans involved in planning and organizing the New Majority Council.

Bositis said he sought to encourage the GOP in their effort because he agrees with many minority leaders who complain that Democrats tend to take their support for granted.

“But establishing trust is something that takes a long time,” he cautioned. “And the Republican Party has a history of making efforts toward minority communities and then doing something that totally alienates them.”


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