For the past year, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was a Tea Party hero and the oft-discussed possible hail mary pick for Mitt Romney’s veep in the hopes to pander to Hispanic voters. Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) instead and lost the Hispanic vote 70 percent to 30 percent, and the election itself against a tidal wave of shifting demographics.
Now, with the Republican party desperate to both explain and rectify their dismal performance among minority groups in the election, GOP favorites like Rubio and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are attempting a quickie PR makeover for the party, which has been damaged by racially insensitive rhetoric and attacks on the first black president, as well as anti-immigrant sentiment and voter suppression targeting people of color.
Rubio for his part is softening up his image, first with his speech full of sunshine at the Republican National Convention this summer and most recently, with his latest interview with GQ magazine where he laughs it up talking about his political future and his longstanding appreciation for hip-hop, namely Public Enemy, NWA and Tupac Shakur.
“People forget how dominant Public Enemy became in the mid 80s. No one talks about how transformative they were. And then that led to the 90s and the sort of East Coast v. West Coast stuff, which is kinda when I came of age. There’s a great documentary on Tupac called Resurrection about the last few years of Tupac’s life and how he transformed. And, ironically, how this East Coast rapper became this West Coast icon, back when all that Death Row/Sean Combs stuff was going on. Hip-hop’s 30 years old now and it’s crossed over and sort of become indistinguishable from pop music in general. You know, many people say Nicki Minaj is a rapper, but she’s also a singer. Kanye’s another guy who’s also a rapper, but his songs aren’t pure rap anymore. There’s also all these collaborations going on, which confuses everything. You know you’ve got the guy from Miami, Pitbull, who’s on TV selling a car and then he’s advertising for Dr. Pepper,” Rubio told GQ.
Rubio also cites his three favorite rap songs: “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. “Killuminati” by Tupac. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
Apparently this is how the GOP plans to get back in the game with people of color.
Realizing the decreasing share of white voters in the electorate and an aging hip-hop generation, the Republican party has to think on its feet before the next cycle to remake their tarnished image as the party of old white people.
Perhaps someone should tell them that name dropping Kanye West or Tupac Shakur isn’t the way to attract minority voters.
Sure, President Obama brushed his shoulders off (in a hat tip to the Jay Z song “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” in 2008) and has referenced Lil Wayne on the stump, but these references only work in conjunction with policies that benefit these same young people of color.
It doesn’t help the Republican party to know the lyrics to “Straight Outta Compton” if none of their policies can help a struggling young person get straight out of Compton and into college they can afford.
While people of color in the GOP, including Bobby Jindal and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who might be considering a run for his old job, try to reach out to people of color with pop culture references and tales of struggle and bootstraps pulled upwards, the winning coalition of young and minority voters knows better.
If the Republican party wants to reach out to minorities, they first need to propose policies that reach these communities.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell at @ZerlinaMaxwell