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GOP's salvation lies in being more 'Catholic' page 2
Michael Gerson's column about the challenges ahead for the GOP in attracting Hispanic, Catholic voters.

Date published: 11/18/2012


Catholics have a historical advantage in understanding the imperative of inclusion in modern politics. They belong, after all, to an institution that has been multicultural since Peter first set foot in Rome. But white evangelicals are now getting their own education in coalition politics. They gave Mitt Romney a remarkable 79 percent of their vote--the same share that George W. Bush received in 2004--while comprising a larger percentage of the electorate than they did 2004. But their energy and loyalty were rendered irrelevant--washed away--by GOP failures among other groups.

"Rather than a repudiation of cultural conservatism," concludes Green, "this was an election in which cultural conservatives did everything they could, but the party fell short."

In the long run, social conservatives will have serious trouble exerting influence unless they are allied with rising ethnic populations, which tend toward conservative social views. But social conservatives are now in a toxic alliance with political forces--the wall-builders and advocates of self-deportation--that are actively alienating rising ethnic populations.

Evangelicals and conservative Catholics--some of the most loyal members of the Republican coalition--have a direct political interest in making that coalition more inclusive. Hispanic outreach alone is not sufficient. Romney's largest problem--picking from the smorgasbord is a challenge--was probably his underperformance among white working-class voters. But given America's demographic direction, the overwhelming loss of Hispanic votes will gradually complicate the Republican political task to the point of impossibility. Unless this problem is solved, the GOP will remain on a long, downward slope toward irrelevance.

Outreach is not done in a single awkward lunge. It will involve more than endorsing comprehensive immigration legislation, though that is necessary. Hispanic voters have a series of concerns typical of a poorer but economically mobile community: working schools, college access, health care, a working safety net. Republicans will need to offer policy alternatives on these issues--defining an active, market-oriented role for government.

Perhaps the greatest Republican need is to embrace and demonstrate some other sound Catholic teachings: a commitment to the common good and a particular concern for the poor and vulnerable. This might appeal to Hispanics--and others.

Michael Gerson is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.

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