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Is This the Race That Changes Party Policy on Race Relations?

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There has been many a piece written—some by my colleagues at New America—on the coming political realignment. Decidedly less proverbial ink has been spilled, however, on what that will mean for party policy on race relations. The future of politics in America is not white, and the future of realigned politics is not, either.

Trump’s rhetoric and his pushing the Republican Party toward white, nationalist, populist realignment could spoil the party’s initial efforts to acknowledge the changing electorate. Some of his opponents early on, like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush, who could all speak some Spanish, were touted as the key to acknowledge the Hispanic minority and capture their vote. Jen Manuel Krogstad of the Pew Research Center declared 2016 to have the most diverse electorate in US History, making their inclusion that much more important. However, Trump’s accusatory language and discriminatory policies towards Muslims, Hispanics, and African Americans are hardly words of welcome into the Grand Old Party, and Trump’s language against Mexican immigrants has galvanized groups of immigrants to speed up legalization in an effort to vote against Trump.

But that the Republican party is losing minority voters in droves does not mean that Democrats can assume they are their platform of preference. Rather, the new importance of minority voters—by 2060 we will make up 56 percent of the American population—should put an end to pandering and mark a start to actual inclusion in policies and platforms, and not only on issues that are traditionally associated with racial groups. In other words: Historically, race was used to garner a small niche of voters. Bill Clinton, most notably the first “black President” played saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show, but reverted back to southern charm to gain white middle class America.

That is already insufficient, but, in the age of realignment, it will be more markedly seen as not enough. Lauren Victoria Burke of The Root noted the recent change in rhetoric this election, but votes from black voters can only be garnered when more legislation successfully goes through congress. In an interview Regina Monge, advisory board member of BeVisible Millennial, agrees with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ domestic policy, but argues that, while election conversation is great, broad policy change and consistent inclusion of minority voices is the goal. Movements such as Black Lives Matter reflect that demand for active policy. While Hillary and Bernie acknowledge institutional racism, more will be expected of them to get done to not just cater to their diverse audience, but to serve them as equal members of their constituency.

The foundation laid by the 2016 presidential election makes it difficult to ignore minorities in the future. We do not know for certain what the future will bring for American politics. But saying that the experiences of minorities in America will determine the success of each political party is not a prediction. It is a fact. Both parties need to find a way to appeal to voters of color by incorporating what matters to them into their platforms during election season and addressing them long thereafter. That is, if they want to win.


Mariatu Santiago is a development assistant at New America. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations with a focus in international development in sub-Saharan Africa from American University.