Editor’s Note: This post was written by Stella Pabis.
The Republicans have lost.
But wait–the general election hasn’t even happened yet! How can I say that they’ve lost already? As the Trump campaign transitions from the primaries to the general election, the loss becomes more glaring and apparent; the Republican Party has forgotten and neglected a whole segment of the American population. Whom do they neglect? African-Americans and Hispanics. How? By ignoring or disregarding issues in this country that impact these groups disproportionately. This is not only unwise from a strategic and a political standpoint but it is a disgrace and disservice to approximately 30% of the population.
The Republican Party had an opportunity to discuss these matters and squandered it. Important issues like the criminal justice system and how it incarcerates blacks and Hispanics at a disproportionate rate were ignored. The party’s opportunity and potential saving grace came in the form of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who ran for the nomination. At an early debate, he recognized and discussed the problems with the War on Drugs, excessive fines for those on the brink of poverty, and the missing black men gap. Paul’s comments only scratched the surface, yet they were more pointed than any other Republican candidate’s platform this cycle. This deemed him an “outlier.”
Paul only recited the facts. The War on Drugs is an issue that negatively impacts minorities. Across races, drug use is even but blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites are, averaged nationally. Furthermore, 57% of individuals in state prisons and 77% of inmates in federal prisons for drug offenses are black or Hispanic. Despite these disproportionate numbers, Republican candidates have paid the issue no mind. Senator Paul exited the race in early February after a fifth-place finish in Iowa; since then, there has been little commentary on criminal justice reform, the War on Drugs, or the Black Lives Matter movement from the other Republican candidates. However, Senator Paul has kept the issue at the forefront of his reelection campaign for Senator and has co-sponsored the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
This lack of attention to these issues has not gone unnoticed. The Huffington Post observed that the Republican candidates had little to say about criminal justice even though the United States incarcerates a larger proportion of its citizens than any other country. On their campaign websites neither Ted Cruz, John Kasich, nor Donald Trump (the three Republican candidates with the longest campaigns) mention the criminal justice system or reform, the War on Drugs, or the Black Lives Matter movement. Ted Cruz has flip-flopped on these issues. He was in support of reform but now argues that it would allow violent criminals to be released onto the streets. Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric combined with his statements claiming mistreatment of law enforcement works to expand these problems rather than fix them. John Kasich may have had the best footing to discuss these issues as he passed sentencing reform in his home state of Ohio in 2011. Unfortunately, it was not an issue he actively incorporated into his presidential campaign platform.
On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic candidates have addressed these issues head-on this cycle. There is not much disparity between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on criminal justice reform. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders address the Black Lives Matter movement and criminal justice reform on their websites. Why do the Republican candidates ignore such a blatantly broken system?
This neglect is not just a neglect of the issues. It, in essence, leaves groups of people behind. If the United States continues to have a two-party system, then both parties need to address the issues that affect all Americans. The Republican Party is failing and candidates who address these subjects should never be regarded as “outliers.” They should be the norm and part of the establishment. It is the only way the Republican Party can survive in a country in which whites will likely not be the majority for much longer.