Last week at its convention in Tampa, the Republican Party attempted to address what Sen. Lindsey Graham referred to as its “demographic” problem. Graham said that the party can no longer rely on angry white men to win elections, and the polls back him up.
So it’s no coincidence that the GOP convention featured a diverse range of speakers, including South Carolina’s own Gov. Nikki Haley and Rep. Tim Scott, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice.
But Democrats at their convention in Charlotte say that the GOP is missing the point. While diversifying its range of speakers shows progress, Democrats say that the message not the messenger is what matters and it is the Republican Party’s platform that is pushing away minority voters.
On the issue of immigration, the Republicans have struck a hard line, with states like Arizona and South Carolina allowing law enforcement to ask citizens to verify their identity with a photo ID. The Democrats, meanwhile have promoted the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to young people who came to the United States under the age of 16.
Radwan Chodhury, who was born in Bangladesh, thinks the immigration issue is reason enough to support Democrats. Chodhury, 38, is a financial consultant in the Jacksonville, Fla., area and believes in tightening the borders, but also believes that the immigrants who are here need to be taken care of, regardless of their citizenship status.
“Democrats are more appealing because they are interested in giving people a second chance,” Chodhury said. “The first thing the Republicans want to do is punish you.”
Since coming to America in 1998, Chodhury has received two Master’s degrees and is pursuing a doctorate. Once he receives his doctorate, he plans on working in developing nations for a non-profit.
“I would not have had the life I have had if I had not moved to America,” Chodhury said.
The Republicans haven’t helped themselves with a push for tougher Voter ID laws in several swing states either. Many African-Americans who spoke to Patch in Charlotte said they feel as though the measures in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia are little more than attempts to suppress participation by blacks in states where the vote is expected to be close.
Jesse Jackson told Patch that he viewed the efforts by Republicans .
South Carolina State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who is black, said the measures could discourage many rural voters from even trying to vote.
On women’s issues, the Republicans also are found wanting, according to Democrats who spoke to Patch, a belief reflected in the amount of female representation in the U.S. Senate.
Of the 17 women in the Senate, 12 are Democrats. Of the five Republicans, three are moderates — Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. And Snowe announced her retirement earlier this year, citing her frustration with her party’s move to the right.
Indeed, it is on abortion where the divide between Republicans and Democrats may be the deepest. Despite controversial remarks by Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, the GOP still included language on its official 2012 platform that calls for an end to abortion, regardless of how the pregnancy was caused.
Abortion is the key issue for Nancy Rice, a mother of two from Vienna, Va. Rice relayed a story about an elderly friend of hers who had fought for women’s rights when she was younger and finally gave up on the Republican Party, due to its stance on abortion.
“Women need to get their heads out of the ground,” Rice said. “We aren’t going to let our daughters fight without us.”
Lera Brown, a delegate from Annandale, VA, said women care about everything including contraception, and that the GOP’s lack of nuance on the issue shows a lack of understanding about decisions specific to women.
"It depends on each individual circumstances and where every adult female is in their right to have children,” Brown said.
The move to the right by the GOP points to a struggle within the party itself. That conflict may be kept at bay over the weeks leading up to the presidential election in November, but is sure to return in 2013, regardless of who is president.