Tim Stanley says Mitt Romney’s speech to the NAACP’s annual convention was his campaign’s first ‘moment of magic’. Up to a point. It’s true, as Stanley observes, that Republicans once had a better record on civil rights than Democrats (it was once the Party of Lincoln after all). True too that Mitt’s father George, governor of Michigan, was one of those northern Republicans who agitated for decency before it was popular or politically-expedient to do so. Romney has a story to tell here and it’s not a bad tale either.
The speech had two chief aims. First, Romney wins pundit-points for being ‘brave’ enough to speak to a largely-hostile audience. Secondly, when it comes to votes Romney wasn’t really looking for black votes. He knows Obama will win 90 per cent of the African-American vote. No, Romney’s speech was looking for white votes.
Specifically the kind of middle-class white voter who wants to think better of the Republican party. These suburban voters, found in places such as the North Carolina ‘Research Triangle’ and northern Virginia don’t wish to be associated with any kind of ‘Southern Strategy’. They think they have moved beyond that and that America has — or should have — too.
Romney’s message, then, was that he is one of these guys too. And, on social issues, he pretty much is. But, as Jamelle Bouie says, Obama won’t win the black vote just because the President is black too. He’ll win it because he’s a Democrat and so are most African-Americans.
Nevertheless, it’s important that the GOP candidate makes at least some effort to appeal to voters beyond traditional Republican constituencies. It may not win Romney many more votes this time but, viewed over the medium to long term, the GOP must broaden its appeal. White men will, for sure, remain a vital constituency but, over time, their relative importance will decline.Tags: Barack Obama, Elections, Mitt Romney, Race, Republicans, US politics