COMMUNICATING WITH AMERICA
Transculturalism in Culture,
Media and Politics
By: Richard A. Wayner
Nothing was more evident from the 2012 election than the urgent need for a new way to communicate with transcultural America. The Democratic convention was manifestly more transcultural than the Republican convention. Their campaign language was transcultural, bridging racial and ethnic divides; the Romney campaign not so.
What the Republicans failed to understand was that the best trends and the best trendsetters transcend traditional boundaries - of race and ethnicity, in particular.
What they need is a simple program to reconnect the party with the changing population. The key word is “simple.”
On Election Day 2012, I called a friend, a senior member and adviser to the Republican Party, and asked him what he thought was going to happen. He said, “I just don’t feel as if the Republican Party has done everything they need to do to win; they haven’t pulled out all the stops; they haven’t tried to win every vote.”
Republicans more or less gave up 30 percent of the electorate: the black and the Hispanic vote. Looking forward at demographic trends, it is only going to continue to move away from them. Hispanic, black and all the ethnic vote (including Asian, multiracial, etc.) will continue to grow at a much faster rate than the so-called white vote.
OBSESS ABOUT VALUES – NOT RACE
The knee-jerk reaction of many Republicans is “Oh, we have to get the Hispanic vote in 2016.” But that is misguided. The answer is not to worry or obsess about race, but to worry and obsess about values.
Values cut across race, and to me that is a much more hopeful vision that will resonate through the population and society. It’s the high ground. The key message is that transculturalism applies to the arts, to culture, to brands, to business, – especially the consumer product business, and, yes, it applies to politics. Players that cross cultural lines, and do it successfully, win; those that don’t, lose. In media, culture or politics, they lose.
The solution I propose stems from the conversation with my Republican friend on Election Day, who observed, “The interesting thing is that the Republicans used to win a larger share of the black and Hispanic vote.”
It is interesting, and true. Just go back to George W. Bush, when the Republicans won about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. As for the black vote, you need to go a little further back, but Richard Nixon won 20 percent.
So I’d call the Republican solution “Project 2040,” and it refers to two things: winning 20 percent of the black vote and 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Importantly it also refers to the year 2040, when today’s minorities will constitute the majority of the U.S. population.
Project 2040 would be simple and focuses on three values, family, freedom and faith - that cut across ethnicity and can unify the U.S. black white, yellow and brown.
Family is family, and I am not going to dive into today’s divisive definitions. I define family as whoever is home when you go home. That is thefoundation of society and strong families make for a strong country. Whoever is home when you go home has a much bigger impact on your daily well-being than the government, period.
Freedom, political and economic, is the hallmark of American history and has attracted millions of people year after year after year to come to this country to succeed. It has done so for hundreds of years. If we kill political and economic freedom, we will kill the dream of America.
Finally, Americans are a people of faith. This is the value I feel most strongly about. Whether or not you believe in God or believe in country, it is important that you believe in something bigger than yourself. If you don’t, that is when it all begins to unravel and everybody goes into their corner and cares only about themselves. That is the biggest single risk this country faces.
I heard that Ronald Reagan once said about Hispanics that they should be naturally Republican. That comment has to do with values, such as family, freedom and faith. The same is true for African-Americans. These are values that cut across ethnicity, including the fast growing Asian American population which is addressed here, but clearly fits this thesis, too.
Yet, in 2012, the Republican Party seemed to turn its back on all these growing ethnic populations. If the Republicans had made a good-faith, significant and successful effort to court this vote, and only won 20 percent of the black and 40 percent of the Latino vote, it would have changed the tide 52 to 48 in their favor. Game over, Republicans win. As we all know, this did not happen.
The Republican Party must boost its share of the minority vote in 2016 and beyond, or it will lose again and again. Without a Project 2040, not only would the GOP not catch up in the next election, but it would keep falling further behind, to 48 percent from the 49 percent it won in 2012. And the number will continue to fall.
With a Project 2040, not only would the GOP catch up, but would be in position to make gains going forward, striving to push the black vote to 25 or 30 percent and the Hispanic vote to at least 50 percent. Now they would be building a sustainable franchise and legacy – now their party would be relevant for the 21st century.
Let’s step back and think about what has been happening in the past 10-15 years. Ethnic minorities have already become the driving force in U.S. culture and politics and are participating in ways that probably would never have been imagined 10-20 years ago. And in about 27 years, today’s minorities will account for a majority of the U.S. population.
My advice to clients when I was running an advertising agency was do not fight the wave, ride the wave. You ride it in culture; you ride it in politics; you ride it in business. If you are selling soap, marketing sportswear or running an election, you need to think about what is going to be attractive to this trans-cultural market. From a political perspective, you don’t have to win 100 percent of the wave, but you need to be fighting for a big piece of it. Focusing on values, inclusion, and embracing ethnic minorities, will naturally drive momentum going forward. Thatis where the growth is − and that is where the votes are.