THE BLOG
11/13/2012 03:29 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

"Interest Convergence" and the Republican Party

President Barack Obama, as we all know by now, won a second term as President of the United States collecting 332 to former Governor Willard Mitt Romney's 206 Electoral College votes, while garnering 61,173,739 votes to Romney's 58,167,260. In fact, the Republican Party has only carried the popular vote in presidential elections twice, 1988 and 2004, in the last 24 years.

Though Romney pulled in nearly 60 percent of the white vote, a voting demographic that has steadily declined relative to the overall electorate since 1992, fully 45 percent of President Obama's total came from minority communities carrying 93 percent of African Americans, 73 percent of Asian Americans, and 71 percent of Latinos. In addition, since the election year of 1964, more women than men have voted, and President Obama garnered 55 percent of the women's vote this time around. Young people between the ages of 18 to 29 made up nearly one-fifth of the total votes cast in this election, with Obama carrying 60 percent to Romney's 38 percent.

Since their recent defeat, GOP political leaders and pundits have been licking their wounds. They are asserting that the Party has to reach out to minorities and place new faces at the forefront to ensure that the Party does not land on the endangered species list. Names like Cuban-American U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal have surfaced as possible candidates to attract additional demographic groups, traditional Democratic Party constituencies, into their tent.

For the Republicans to have any future, however, they are fooling themselves if they think that by merely presenting diverse faces alone will lead them to victory. To remain viable, the GOP must craft a diversity of thought and a diversity of policies to give people something to vote for, something to embrace, something that makes peoples' lives better, rather than rehashing the policies of the past. They must let go of their nostalgia for the policies of "the good ol' days" of Ronald Reagan, and enter the current political era.

The late Dr. Derrick Bell of New York University Law School forwarded the theory of "interest convergence," meaning that white people will support racial justice only when they understand and see that there is something in it for them, when there is a "convergence" between the interests of white people and racial justice. Bell asserted that the Supreme Court ended the longstanding policy in 1954 of "separate but equal" in Brown v. Board of Education because it presented to the world, and in particular, to the Soviet Union during the height of the cold war, a United States that supported civil and human rights.

Let's take another example: Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) president, Brigham Young, instituted a policy on Feb. 13, 1849, emanating from "divine revelation" and continuing until as recently as 1978 forbidding ordination of black men of African descent from the ranks of LDS priesthood. This policy prohibited black men and women from participating in the temple endowment and sealings, which the church requires for the highest degree of salvation. The policy likewise restricted black people from attending or participating in temple marriages.

Young attributed this restriction to the sin of Cain, Adam and Eve's eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: "What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?," stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. "The Lord had cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood."

The twelfth LDS Church president, Spencer W. Kimball, who served from 1973 to his death in 1985, was supposedly touched with a vision, and he reversed the ban, referring to it as "the long-promised day." Well, we can ask today whether "revelation" or interest conversion was the determining factor in granting black people full membership rights in the church at a time of ongoing and heightened civil rights activities in the United States and an increase in LDS missionary recruitment efforts throughout the African continent.

In another example, the issue of slavery became a lightning rod in the 1840s among members of the Baptist General Convention, and in May 1845, 310 delegates from the Southern states convened in Augusta, Ga., to organize a separate Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on a pro-slavery plank. They asserted that to be a "good Christian," one had to support the institution of slavery and could not join the ranks of the abolitionists.

Well, again, whether by divine inspiration or interest convergence stemming from political pressure and shrinking church membership, 150 years later in June 1995, the SBC reversed its position and officially apologized to African Americans for its support and collusion with the institution of slavery (regarding it now as an "original sin"), and also apologizing for its support of "Jim Crow" laws and its rejection of civil rights initiatives of the 1950s and 1960s.

So, when the Republican Party realizes its interests to follow the expressed wishes of the majority of the electorate, maybe then the GOP will join with the Democrats to craft and pass comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform; maintain and possibly strengthen legislation to guarantee affordable universal health care; secure Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and other vital safety nets; end all attempts at voter suppression; ensure reproductive freedoms for all women, stop pushing needless and invasive transvaginal exams, and stop talking about "legal rape" or referring to pregnancy resulting from rape as "God's will"; work for marriage equality on the national level; help to reduce costs and expand opportunities for people to attend college and enroll in job training programs, and enlarge government guaranteed grants and loan options; maintain an equitable tax policy where the rich and super rich pay their fair share; pass a jobs bill that puts people back to work to repair our aging and crumbling infrastructure; tighten regulations on Wall Street and our banking systems to limit the chances of another meltdown; and invest more in renewable and clean energy sources; and the list goes on.

Maybe then and only then will the Republican Party save itself from itself.

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