While preparing to disengage from the Internet Friday evening, I came across a statement from soon-to-be-former State Senator and unsuccessful Republican candidate for attorney general Dawson Hodgson that merits response. From Ian Donnis’s weekly must-read TGIF post for the week:
Hodgson and fellow Republican Catherine Taylor got swamped in Rhode Island’s cities. So it’s not surprising to hear Hodgson call for the RI GOP to do a better job in courting Latino and black voters, particularly in Providence. “That’s the future of this [Republican] Party if we want to be competitive in the urban landscape,” Hodgson said on this week’s RIPR Bonus Q+A. “I think there are a lot of principles that cross over and that are very generationally appealing: freedom, the ability to control your own destiny and make your way in life and be given a fair shot by your government. That’s what being a Republican means to me. I think that’s a winning message in Providence if you can get people to listen to it.”
This makes me wonder if Hodgson has actually spent much time interacting with urban members of minority communities that already do or might nearly align with Republicans. As I’ve pointed out before (on this site and on TV), while he and his fellow white, male, suburban Republican state senators were taking a bow for being the only full Republican caucus in the country to back same-sex marriage, black urban Senator Harold Metts (D, Providence) was standing against the wave as the voice of traditional values and a choir of presumably urban Latinos were singing for the traditionalist cause outside the Senate chambers.
The implications of this fact are larger than could be explained as a few old-school folks among the urban minorities who just haven’t gotten the “right side of history” message, yet.
Disadvantaged communities can see the brand of freedom espoused by relatively wealthy whites who profess to be “fiscally conservative, but socially liberal,” as a license to take away all supports from those who need them most. Paring back government funding and programs that offer direct support for urban communities, while at the same time taking a sledgehammer to the social supports that help communities and families survive and thrive without government assistance, can sound like a promise of having freedom to drown.
Liberal Republicans shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the things they like about liberal Democrats are the same things that urban minorities like about liberal Democrats. The bottom line is that — because of their values or because of the crass requirements of their bases — Republicans will never be able to outbid Democrats for the affections of disadvantaged groups; they have to offer an alternative. Fortunately, the alternative available to them is both more moral and more powerful and sustainable.