How Sriracha Explains the GOP's Problem

Dave Winer/Creative Commons
Dave Winer/Creative Commons

(The Root) — The Republican National Committee's 100-page "Growth & Opportunity Project" report (pdf) came out this week, with the aim of diagnosing what went wrong for the GOP in 2012 and prescribing a fix for Republicans' stark failure: Ninety-three percent of black voters, 71 percent of Latinos and 73 percent of Asian Americans cast votes to re-elect Democratic President Barack Obama.


It's a list of recommendations and a proposal to spend $10 million on outreach with "demographic partners" and to "show up" — as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus says — in places with diverse constituencies in an effort to show "sincerity," be more "inclusive" and get with the times on issues like immigration reform. But the plan has been criticized by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who says, "You've got to reconcile how people feel about your policies, not just the fact that you're going to show up" — something of a departure from Steele's half-joke, half-serious suggestion in 2009 that his way to reach out to voters of color was saying, "Y'all come."

But if I might "concern troll" the RNC for a moment, there might be an even easier way to look at this than what the GOP has come up with. Its disconnect problem can be explained by the rapid ascent of a condiment that was once the exclusive province of Pho bistros and is now so ubiquitous that Bon Appétit says you can put it on macaroni and cheese: Sriracha sauce. It's the newest flavor of Lay's potato chips and, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, soon to take over as America's hot sauce of record.

Yes, Republicans, your problems with today's American voter can be explained by "rooster sauce."

Am I saying that by embracing the Southeast Asian-inspired sauce, Republicans will give themselves a leg up in 2016? No — that would be racist.

What I am saying is that rooster sauce isn't "ethnic" food anymore. It's as all-American as ranch dressing and deli mustard, in the same way that same-sex marriage and bilingual education aren't "minority" issues anymore — they're just issues. It's representative of the ways in which American life has diversified — and the ways in which the GOP hasn't caught up with that yet.

The Republicans' report reads as if they've sent a team of anthropologists from one America to study another America, not realizing that the "new" America and the mainstream are one and the same.


Their report says that "we can't expect to address these demographic groups if we know nothing about them" — which is true. But Republicans — whatever their background — already know, or should know, the most important thing about voters of color, women and young people: We're all just people, and people — voters — want respect.

And if the GOP can't adapt to that, no amount of "outreach" will solve its long-term problem. Here are a few other tips:

Stop Saying "Food Stamp President"

If this has to be explained, then there's no 100-page report in the world that can help the GOP.


Republicans don't help their case whenever they make their criticism of the Obamas personal.

First lady Michelle Obama has spent her time in the White House bringing up two lovely daughters, promoting exercise and a healthy diet for the nation's children, attending funerals of slain teenagers, hugging victims of natural disasters and being the glamorous ambassador of goodwill and American style that the world's only superpower surely needs and deserves — a portfolio that scarcely anyone could disagree with.


But for the last four years, Republicans have claimed that she wants to ban dessert and have criticized her for making a five-minute appearance at the Oscars (via satellite!) and for the cost of her travel — as if the first lady of the United States should fly the world in a middle seat on Southwest Airlines.

She pretty much does first lady stuff; get over it.

Don't Be So Surprised by Who Voted for Obama

Just because many Asian Americans are admired as successful entrepreneurs — or just because recent Latino immigrants enjoy a reputation for being hardworking and family oriented — doesn't mean that the Republican Party is their "natural home." So Republicans should stop acting surprised that so many Asian Americans and Latinos voted for Obama and Democrats — as if those votes rightfully belong to the GOP but somehow accidentally went to the Democratic Party. Every vote has to be earned.


Republicans don't have to abandon their beliefs on every issue to get traction with voters of color. But they do have to accept that if they want Obama voters to be up for grabs next time around, they have to present an economic and foreign policy platform — and message — that's something more than just opposing all things Obama.

And when they "show up" to break bread with voters, they might also want to offer to bring the hot sauce.


David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter