My On The Square column today is about how Republicans underperform even among African-Americans and Latinos who express right-leaning policy preferences. Basically, the lack of a Republican agenda that takes into account the struggles of much of the lower-middle-class makes it easier for Democrats to portray the GOP as the party of rich selfishness and white resentment. This lack of a Republican agenda for those who are struggling (other than cutting taxes for those who already “built that”) hurts Republicans even among upper-middle-class and affluent African-Americans and Latinos. Artur Davis described this dynamic well when he said:
I recognize most African-Americans are middle-class. I recognize most African-Americans work. There is a great sensitivity in the African-American community toward low-income people because most African-Americans are only a generation removed from that kind of poverty and still regularly face it and encounter it even in family reunions.
If you go into the African-American church, you might have a pew full of doctors and lawyers and a pew behind them is many cases full of people on welfare. There is a social confluence in the African-American community of high-income and low-income people that creates a sensitivity toward poor people.
This is a crucial point about what kind of conservative politics Republicans need in order to win over even that fraction of right-leaning African-Americans and Latinos. Because of recent history and residential patterns, middle-class (and even affluent) African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to have more people who are struggling economically within their social networks. This puts a different spin on what a limited government politics should emphasize and what it should say.
You can think government is spending too much money and still know that people earning below the median have legitimate concerns about access to health care. You can be pro-entrepreneur, pro-work, and anti-crony capitalism, but also know that tax cuts for high-earners are not enough for families who are struggling.
Constructing an economic agenda that will appeal to right-leaning African-Americans and Latinos (many middle-class or affluent) who currently vote Democrat involves providing and emphasizing limited government solutions (to the extent that there are solutions) to the problems of struggling families. It would probably also help with working-class white voters too.