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Race And The Republican Party


Democrats won big in the House of Representatives this last election cycle. And the new class of lawmakers are among the most diverse Congress has ever seen - not so much on the Republican side, though. Mia Love was the only black Republican woman in Congress. She lost her re-election bid. And in her concession speech earlier this week, she called out her party on diversity.


MIA LOVE: This election experience shines a spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans. It's transactional. It's not personal.

MARTIN: In a subsequent interview with CNN, Love said, quote, "the problem I see with Republicans and why we lose is because we truly never take anyone home. We never take them into our hearts," end quote. Noah Rothman is a conservative writer with Commentary Magazine. And this week, he wrote a piece titled "Mia Love Is Right" about conservatism's minority problem. And he joins us now.

Noah, thanks for being here.

NOAH ROTHMAN: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: What do you think is the root cause of conservatism's minority problem as you see it?

ROTHMAN: Well, the root cause of conservatism - first of all, we have to distinguish between conservatism and Republicanism. Conservatism is much more philosophical. Republicanism is a lot more political and therefore, more transactional by nature. And...

MARTIN: Defining this as a conservatism problem suggests that it's even a - more fundamental.

ROTHMAN: Well, it probably is. And it certainly is irreconcilable if the problem is policy in the form of philosophy. I don't think that's the problem. I think Mia Love is correct. And she has pegged it as much more of an ability to not antagonize. And that is exemplified by Donald Trump's efforts to gin up cultural controversies. He's not the first to do that. He's just very good at it. That is what, I think, is probably the progenitor of this divide.

MARTIN: So you say that Donald Trump has exacerbated this problem by, perhaps, his rhetoric. But he also has policies that have, many would argue, exacerbated the diversity problem for Republicans - chief among them, his immigration policies.

ROTHMAN: Indeed. And as that sort of relates to a cultural effort to gin up a cultural controversy and sort of culminate it in the effort to separate families at the border was part policy, which we saw from members of the administration saying that this was an effort to deter future immigration.

MARTIN: So do you separate that from conservatism?

ROTHMAN: But it had a cultural (unintelligible). No, I think they are linked. And yes, it has generated a reciprocal backlash among, particularly, Latino voters. We saw turnout numbers among both African-American voters and Latino voters to - that were similar to what we would see in a presidential election than a midterm. And that's the sort of thing that Republicans should wake up to with existential dread.

MARTIN: I mean, they have before, right? 2012 - there was this big autopsy on the Republican Party saying, we need to be a bigger tent. We need to reach out to minorities. How do you fix this?

ROTHMAN: The thing about the autopsy is it demonstrated - it said that the kind of coalition that Donald Trump couldn't put - or put together could not be put together. But it also recommended that Republicans start talking to people other than themselves and sort of soften their ideological rigidity, which is precisely what Donald Trump did. But in so doing, he also embraced the kind of cultural revanchism that we've seen on the right, popularized on the right - and particularly, in conservative media. And I do think that that is going to end up being - demonstrating that the maligned autopsy in 2012 was actually right.

MARTIN: OK. Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine, thank you so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.

ROTHMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.