Consecutive election losses have Republicans looking at ways to tap into Democratic voter bases and score more votes for their teams. To make an impression on female voters, for example, conservative lawmakers are reportedly learning how to talk to female constituents and even how to run against female candidates.
But the sensitivity that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggests his members learn may need to be shown year-round rather than just before Election Day.
Here are some issues where a little more sensitivity on the part of Republicans -- even in words -- could have gone a long way, instead of having them killing their chances with minorities and, dare I say it, the other 47 percent.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Two measures to extend these benefits to millions of Americans for at least three months were recently crushed under the weight of Democrat-vs.-Republican bickering. Modern Republicans have urged House leaders to save unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., argued that allowing people to live off these benefits for a long time makes them perpetually unemployeds. “While it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help,” he said.
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Needless to say, he has taken some flak for that statement -- and it possibly cost the Republican Party a voter or two. Peter LeClair, an unemployed investment manager from New York who described himself as a lifelong Republican, made his change of party known this week on the liberal blog ThinkProgress. Here’s what the blog said LeClair wrote in an email sent to the site:
“[I] will never vote for a Republican [again] as long as I live” after watching them say that relying on unemployment benefits makes people dependent. “I am incensed with this Rand Paul,” he said, who has said extending the benefits would “do a disservice” to those who were relying on them. “He says I am lazy… I am not lazy, how dare he. He doesn’t even know me.”
Dragging Feet On Immigration
Republicans don’t want “amnesty.” OK, many people get that. However, with the Senate passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill last June, and the House having largely focused on border security and interior enforcement, it's no wonder the Latino population is skeptical the lower chamber’s members actually want to do something about the broken system.
Politically, Republicans know what’s at stake with a failure to pass immigration reform. They’ve seen the numbers: Latinos voted 71 percent for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election cycles. They are the nation’s largest minority group and were a key voting bloc in the last election.
But even after Obama said he was OK with Republicans’ piecemeal approach to immigration, it appears the GOP leadership is set to release a set of accepted “principles” for immigration reform rather than a bill.
Advocates say it is a step forward. Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network/New Policy Institute, believes this a sign Republicans are taking the issue seriously. He just hopes it's not a tactic to drag out the issue.
“The question is, will the legislation be about principles, will it be a legislation that is more of a messaging legislation where they’re sort of covering their butt as opposed to actually really trying to get this done,” he said last week during a call-in to members of advocacy group America’s Voice. “My hope is, and I think everybody’s hope is, that they are really going to produce something that Democrats, that the president and the Senate can work with to get it done.”
Proposing The Poor Get IDs To Buy Food
If money weren’t already an issue for the disadvantaged who are depending on the federal government, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is proposing that those on food stamps show valid identification before they can use government funds to buy food.
The bill was introduced earlier this week as a response to the so-called fraud that resulted from a system failure last October when recipients’ card-spending limits were erased. Reports said that because of the malfunction, some people in the affected states bought more goods than they should have.
“Using a photo ID is standard in many day-to-day transactions, and most of those are not exclusively paid for by the taxpayer dollars,” Vitter has said. “Food stamps have more than doubled in cost since 2008 and continue to grow in an unsustainable way, and the events in Louisiana unfortunately highlight the fraud surrounding the taxpayer-funded program. My bill will restore some accountability to the program so it’s not ruined for people who use it appropriately.”
Advocates for the poor have said the senator should set his sights on the contractor paid by the state to administer the program and consider some oversight instead of blaming those on food stamps.