Various Republican presidential primaries see opening in 2024 with voters of color

CHICAGO (AP) — During Donald Trump’s first visit as president to Chicago, a frequent target of his attacks on urban violence, he denigrated the nation’s third-largest city as a haven for criminals and a national embarrassment .

At a recent town hall, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy sat alongside former convicts on the city’s South Side and vowed to champion Trump’s “America First” agenda. In return, the little-known White House hopeful, a child of Indian immigrants, found a glimmer of acceptance in a room full of black and brown voters.

The audience nodded when Ramaswamy said ‘anti-black racism is on the rise’, even as he took issue with his promise to weed out affirmative action and fight ‘woke’ policies.

“Yes, we are critical of the Democratic Party, and for good reason, for talking about a big game of helping black Americans without doing much to show up and help out on the field,” he later said. “But we, on our end, are also talking about a great game on America First without really bringing all of America with us.

Race has become a central — and sensitive — issue in the 2024 presidential contest, as the GOP’s primary field so far includes four candidates of color, making it one of the most racially diverse.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the South’s first black senator since Reconstruction, entered the contest earlier in the month. He joined Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador of Indian descent, and Larry Elder, an African American raised in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood that has drawn national attention. as a candidate in the failed effort two years ago to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, of Cuban descent, said he could participate in the race in the coming days.

Most candidates of color are seen as outsiders in a field currently dominated by Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Still, the party’s increasingly diverse leadership, bolstered by shifting policy on issues such as immigration, suggests the GOP may have a real opportunity in 2024 to further weaken the Democrats’ grip on African Americans and Latinos. These groups have been among the most loyal segments of the Democratic coalition since Republican leaders fought the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Republican 2024 presidential candidates are walking a fine line when addressing race with the GOP’s overwhelmingly white primary electorate.

In most cases, the various candidates in the Republican field downplay their racial heritage. They all deny the existence of systemic racism in the United States, even discussing their own personal experiences with racial discrimination. They oppose policing, voting rights and education policies that are specifically designed to benefit disadvantaged communities and address structural racism.

The NAACP recently issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida under DeSantis, warning of open hostility “toward African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people.” The advisory calls out new policies passed by the governor that prevent public schools from teaching students about systemic racism and funding programs aimed at diversity, equity and inclusion.

Republican presidential candidates of color largely support DeSantis’ positions.

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said GOP policies are far more important than the racial and ethnic diversity of their presidential candidates. He noted that there were also four Republican candidates of color in 2016, the year Trump won the White House after exploiting tensions over race and immigration.

“White nationalists, insurgents and white supremacists seem to find solace in the (Republican) Party,” Morial said. “I think we are beyond the politics of just the face of a person of color being inherently attractive to people of color. What are you advocating?”

With few exceptions, Republican candidates who have entered the field of presidential primaries have embraced the GOP’s “anti-awakening” agenda, which is based on the idea that policies designed to address systemic inequalities related to race, sex or sexuality are inherently unfair or even dangerous.

DeSantis last week called these policies “cultural Marxism.”

Yet the diverse field of the GOP does not ignore race. Indeed, some candidates are making their race a central theme in their appeal to Republican primary voters, even as they deny that people of color face systemic challenges.

Scott insisted that America is not a racist country in his recent announcement speech.

“We are not defined by the color of our skin. We are defined by the content of our character. And if someone tells you something different, they’re lying,” he said.

In her announcement video, Haley noted that she was raised in small town South Carolina as “the proud daughter of Indian immigrants – not black, not white, I was different.” Like Scott, she defended the GOP against accusations of racism.

“Some think our ideas are not just wrong, but racist and evil,” Haley said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Elder is quick to criticize the Democrats’ “woke” agenda, Black Lives Matter, and the notion of systemic racism.

Critics say these messages are actually designed to win over white suburban voters more than appeal to voters of color. But in South Chicago on a recent Friday afternoon, there were signs that some black voters were open to new GOP messengers, given their frustration with both political parties.

A Ramaswamy town hall attendee waved a flyer for a ‘Biden boycott’ because the Democratic president didn’t say whether he supported reparations for descendants of slaves, despite Biden backing a congressional effort to study the issue. None of the GOP presidential candidates support reparations either.

Others condemned Democrats, in Chicago and Washington, for working harder to help immigrants who are in the country illegally than struggling African-American citizens.

Federal authorities were preparing to move hundreds of migrants from the US-Mexico border to the South Side, even as many local residents grappled with violence and harsh economic conditions.

“It is certainly true that there are several shades of melanin in this Republican breed,” Ramaswamy said in an interview ahead of the event. “I think in a way it dispels the myth that a lot of the left will perpetuate that this is sort of, you know, a racist party or whatever nonsense.”

He added: “But personally, I don’t care what the color of someone’s skin is. I think what matters is what are they going to achieve? What is their vision?”

For now, the GOP has no Hispanic candidates for the 2024 contest. But Suarez, the mayor of Miami, said he could change that in the coming days.

“I think it’s important for the field to have candidates who can connect and motivate Hispanics to continue a trend that’s already happening,” he said in an interview, noting that he was considering “very strongly” a candidacy for the White House. “Democrats have failed miserably to connect with Hispanics.”

A majority of Latino voters backed Biden in the 2020 presidential race, according to AP VoteCast, a broad national survey of the electorate. But Trump has reduced that support in some competitive states, including Florida and Nevada, revealing significant shifts among Latinos from many different cultural backgrounds.

In last fall’s midterm elections, support for Republican candidates grew among black voters, though they remained overwhelmingly supportive of Democrats, AP Votecast found. Overall, Republican candidates were backed by 14% of black voters, down from 8% in the midterm elections four years earlier.

While the changes may be relatively small, strategists from both parties recognize that any change is significant given the proximity of some elections in 2024.

In Chicago, Tyrone Muhammad, who heads Ex-Cons for Social Change, criticized Republicans for being “losers” for not seizing a very real opportunity to win over more African Americans. As he sat next to Ramaswamy on stage, he also said the Republican Party was racist.

Later, he said he actually voted for Trump in 2020 because Trump signed into law a criminal justice bill aimed at shortening prison sentences for nonviolent drug addicts and addressing racial inequality in the world. the judicial system. While the GOP has since adopted tough rhetoric against crime, Muhammed noted that Biden, as a senator, helped pass the 1994 crime bill that led to the mass incarceration of black people.

Muhammad said he could vote Republican again in 2024, despite the party’s shortcomings. He pointed to the GOP’s fight against illegal immigration as a key reason for his support.

“I may not like you as an individual, but I like your problems, I like your policies,” he said.


Fields reported in Washington. Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.


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