WASHINGTON – A new grassroots group is organizing Republican presidential candidates and members of the Hispanic and African-American communities around economic issues in the hopes of drawing disenchanted minorities away from Barack Obama in 2012.
Since Obama picked up 96 percent of the African-American electorate in 2008, support for the president in the black community has dropped to 81 percent thanks to disproportionate unemployment rates. Hispanics, who are also suffering from the high unemployment rate, have also expressed disappointment with the current administration’s approach to the economy and immigration reform.
Noe Garcia III, a principal for firm Corporate Political Strategies, said minorities are tired of just getting the “scraps from the table” and desperately want a seat at the table to demand for more.
A former aide to Arizona Sen. John McCain during his 2008 campaign, Garcia and other conservatives began contemplating creating a minority grassroots group after witnessing a “vacuum” of diversity in the Republican campaign.
On Wednesday, he and a coalition of black, Hispanic and other minority group leaders announced the formation of grassroots group E. Pluribus Unum.
Just like the Tea Party is named after an influential part of America’s history, the group takes its name from the Latin seal translated to “out of many, one,” which references America’s formation as a nation of ex-patriot immigrants. Also like the Tea Party, EPU hopes to hold the Republican Party accountable, not primarily for fiscal conservatism, but minority representation.
The Republican Party has a long complicated past with African-Americans.
National Black Republicans Association Chairman Frances Rice told The Christian Post that early African-American leaders, such the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., were in fact Republicans.
Toni-Michelle Travis, an associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University, said those Republicans could describe themselves as Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republicans.
Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower fought racial discrimination, aiding in the integration of the public school system. Nelson Rockefeller, also a Republican, helped institute a number of anti-discriminatory laws including affirmative action.
When the Democratic Party reformed itself to become the party of Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Travis said Southern Democrats moved to the Republican Party.
“So you had the worst of the segregationists … moving into the Republican Party,” she summed.
Because of that history, she said that Republicans have a reputation of being unwelcoming to African-Americans and minorities.
“There’s a stigma that [Republicans] are really not open and welcoming there in a Republican Party convention or in many Republican Party circles,” Travis lamented, while stressing that Republicans must do something to show minorities there is a space for them in the party.
EPU coalition member Bishop Harry Jackson said the group hopes to draw minority communities by launching a media campaign focused on how conservative ideas could make housing, jobs and health care more accessible.
Travis said Republicans do not have a jobs plan and have acted in ways do not welcome minorities.
“When you come out with Republic rhetoric that’s anti-immigration, anti-the smaller person, the average person, they wonder, ‘Well, why should I vote for you,’” she explained.
African-Americans are economically liberal and support entitlements and redistribution of wealth, Travis pointed out.
Though the EPU announced it will not focus strongly on social issues with strong religious implications, Jackson, a pastor and board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, stressed that blacks and Hispanics are very conservative on social issues like marriage and family.
Though the group will appeal to minority conservatives, right-leaning Democrats and independents, it is also building a coalition with the hopes of influencing Republicans.
“We could be a little bit of a game changer in that if we represent a strong enough constituency, [then more minorities] will want to engage. They (Republicans) will all of a sudden listen … engage around our agendas and recommendations,” Jackson explained.
So far GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich have both endorsed the EPU’s mission. The group said that it is dialoguing with other campaigns and expects to have more endorsements soon.