After losing nearly the entire minority vote in the 2012 election, Republicans held a sensitivity training last week instructing candidates in “successful communication with minorities and women.” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (R) blasted his party for ducking real policy change, pointing to the GOP’s widespread voter suppression tactics as a cause of their unpopularity.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Inauguration Day, Powell said more minority-friendly messaging was not enough and called for meaningful policy changes:
When you see that 73 percent of Asian Americans, 73 percent of Hispanic Americans, 94 percent of African Americans voted for the president and not the party, you have to ask yourself, do we have to do something about immigration? Should we tone down some of the things we’ve been doing? Should we really have gone after reducing the turnout of voters in those places where we thought it would make a difference? The Republican Party should be a party that says, ‘We want everybody to vote,’ and make it easier to vote and give them a reason to vote for the party, not to find ways to keep them from voting at all. [...] You can’t just say, ‘Well, we’ll fix our message.’ It’s not the message. You have to appeal with policies and programs to these people who are going to be the leaders of our country in a generation.
Before the election, many Republican-controlled state legislatures passed contentious voter ID laws and restricted voting hours that targeted urban and minority voters who tend to support Democrats. Since the election, the Florida GOP even admitted voter suppression was the goal of their election laws. Laws in other states, such as Texas, were struck down by courts for their disproportionate impact on minorities.
Powell’s tough advice built on his recent condemnation of the Republican Party for embracing “a dark vein of intolerance”. On Monday, he noted that other Republicans privately thanked him for his comments but were too afraid to speak out for fear of Tea Party vengeance in the 2014 midterm elections.