This month Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told press members that he does not see a reason to apologize on behalf of his party for recent racially charged comments made by Republican leaders. Instead, his strategy has been to isolate Republican politicians who fall under fire and distance his party from them. Additionally, his only response for recent voter fraud laws, which critics say is designed to keep minorities from voting, is that he does not make the law.
Denial does not serve the party well. After the 2012 election cycle, many Republican leaders such as Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have said that the party needs to be friendlier to black and Latino voters if they hope to win the White House in the next election. The party as it stands only receives about 17% of the minority vote, a group that has a growing share against the white demographic each year.
A better way to reach out to minorities would be to offer the apology that has been requested. An example of such an apology was former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman’s speech to the NAACP in 2005. Mehlman apologized for the party’s history of exploiting racial tensions to win the white vote. It was the first time an apology was offered on behalf of the whole party, and it received good mainstream news coverage. Black support for republicans grew under Mehlman’s leadership, but some of the momentum has since been lost.
Apologizing would be a good way for Priebus to admit that the party is troubled and clear the way to present a new, modern strategy to maintain wins. The problem remains, however, with the split between congressional voter bases and national ones. Many members of Congress worry about angering their conservative voter base at home if they cater to minorities on issues like immigration. On the other hand, too much embrace of home voters may isolate an increasingly progressive national voter base. Priebus has to find a way to unite his party and find topics that can appeal to Republicans of all types. His continuing tactics of calling out individuals will only exacerbate the struggles of the party, which remains split heavily between far-right conservatives and moderates.