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Republicans Dream of a Not-So-White Party

In Tampa, blacks and Hispanics were in short supply—except on stage
Republicans Dream of a Not-So-White Party
Photograph by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

On the first night of the Republican National Convention, a 37-year-old black woman delivered a spirited speech to the audience of largely white, largely middle-aged delegates. Mia Love, the GOP mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and a candidate for Congress, was born to Haitian parents who came to Brooklyn with $10 and who, Love proudly said, “never took a handout” from the government. She was followed on stage by a succession of speakers who also didn’t fit the white-guy-in-a-tie Republican mold: Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who is Indian American; Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico; former Barack Obama supporter Artur Davis; Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada; Sher Valenzuela, who’s running for lieutenant governor in Delaware; and Ted Cruz, a Harvard-educated Tea Party candidate from Texas. They told of coming to America, overcoming adversity, and finding a home in the GOP.

The decision to showcase their stories in prime time says a lot about the Republican Party’s increasingly urgent desire to be seen as welcoming to minorities and women. It’s more than a show of inclusiveness. After decades of half-hearted efforts to attract blacks, Hispanics, and unmarried white women, most of whom vote for Democrats, GOP leaders realize that unless it expands its pool of support, the party could slide into irrelevance in coming decades.