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Obama's victory highlights the prospect of an irrelevant Republican Party

Jonathan P Hicks | 11/9/2012, 1:35 p.m.
It's time to make youth unemployment the focus of our national attention

When President Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech in Chicago early Wednesday morning, the crowd that packed McCormick Place looked very much like, well, America.

As was the case with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this past summer, the people who gathered at the president's victory speech reflected the diversity of the nation he has been re-elected to lead. They were white and Black, Latino and Asian, young and old.

In contrast, the crowd that surrounded Mitt Romney in his concessions--as was the case at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.--was stunning in its lack of diversity. It was like looking at the crowd that surrounded Alfred Landon when he opposed Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1936.

Surveying that crowd at Chicago's jubilant victory event speaks volumes about the legacy of Obama and, at the same time, the United States. In the process, those images speak even more powerfully about the disheveled and dispirited state of the Republican Party in the age of Obama.

It has been said that the GOP in this age is not the Republican Party of our grandparents. But, then, the United States is not the same country of our grandparents. That very fact has placed the Republican Party in the thorny position of having to do some deep soul-searching. The Republican Party urgently needs to reinvent itself or it will become even more irrelevant and uncompetitive.

And yet, this was a party that told African-American voters in urban areas that voter suppression was one of the principles on which it stood. It was a party that told working-class people that the emergency room offered a better opportunity for medical care than the president's Affordable Care Act.

The Republican leaders were the voices telling Latino-Americans that their cruel and heartless concept of "self-deportation" was the answer to the nation's immigration scenario, rather than a reasonable strategy to protect the nation's borders and still stimulate the economy with newcomers.

For Republicans, the warning signs are now almost blinding. Every month, about 50,000 Latino-Americans reach the age of 18. In 1988, Republican George H.W. Bush prevailed with 62 percent of the white vote and 426 electoral votes, trouncing Democrat Michael Dukakis. In this week's election, Mitt Romney received roughly 60 percent of the white vote but won just 203 electoral votes to the president's more than 300.

The complexion of the United States is changing, and the change is swift and unmistakable. The country is soon approaching a point where it will be a majority-minority nation. Latino-Americans are becoming significant players in the electorates of an ever-growing number of states. Such red bastions as Arizona and Texas are likely to see a complete reshaping of their political landscapes as we move toward 2020 and beyond.

If the Republicans are to remain competitive, they must embrace the fact that those changes are unavoidable. They should feel compelled to recalibrate their strategies to take into account the desires and dreams of people of color. Doing that takes far more than just displaying Marco Rubio or Condoleezza Rice at a political convention.

It will require a realignment of Republican positions on the issues that matter to Americans of all backgrounds. When they cling to frightening positions such as asking women to submit to vaginal probes in matters related to abortion and a promise to throw out affordable health care, many Americans are rightly alienated.

The nation can only benefit from having two political parties that take seriously the urgency to address the needs of all Americans. If the Republicans take that mission seriously, it can only sharpen the Democrats in the process. In the end, it will enhance the options for all Americans.