Two lame-duck House Republican women are sounding the alarm on their own party for excluding minorities and women from their messaging.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina to ever hold federally elected office, is retiring after 30 years from her seat representing South Florida and its Hispanic-heavy population.
Both are leaving Congress in less than three weeks, and both have delivered stark warnings to the GOP that it needs to act fast to win over historically marginalized communities such as blacks and women.
The ‘Fun’ in Dysfunction, iPhone Confusion and the Sound of Silence: Congressional Hits and Misses
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Love staunchly adhered to the core principles of conservatism but said Republicans have not effectively packaged those principles and pitched them to minorities in American cities and elsewhere.
Republicans are losing the messaging battle, Love suggested.
“For too long, conservatives in my party have focused on administering purity tests instead of expanding our audience. And in doing so, we have too often failed to adequately articulate our party’s principles to others, allowing our opponents to define or caricature our principles for us,” the Utah Republican wrote.
“We have especially failed to bring our message to, and connect with, women and racial minorities. And we have effectively written off cities as Democratic strongholds. Our nation is poorer for it,” she wrote.
Ros-Lehtinen suggested the Republican party has tacked too hard toward the cultural insecurities and economic hardship of white men, even as demographic shifts have trended toward a more diverse electorate.
Ros-Lehtinen has for years represented South Florida’s 27th District, where 43 percent of the population is Cuban-American, a reliably Republican voting group. But Hillary Clinton carried the 27th District by more than 20 points in 2016, and the district flipped blue this cycle after Ros-Lehtinen elected to retire instead of running for a 16th term.
The Florida Republican warned in an interview with NPR that her party has not adapted over the years to include members of society who are not white men.
“Instead of going forward, we’re going backward,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We need to pay attention to the changing demographics of our country. We have not been attuned to that. We have been appealing to one certain section of America. I don’t know what you want to call it. The white, male conservative is definitely getting a lot of issues thrown their way.”
Ros-Lehtinen said that young people “rejected” the GOP this past election, suggesting that Republicans are in danger of failing to capture future generations of voters unless they cultivate a more inclusive tone.
“Young people rejected the Republican Party ... Suburban women left our party. And minorities did not see us as a welcoming voice. You just have to show people that you care,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “And we’re not even willing to do that. We don’t go to those neighborhoods. We don’t go to suburbia. We don’t talk to women.
“We’re not doing anything to appeal to those groups,” she said.