Race and the Race: Tim Pawlente Race: Tim Pawlenty’s Republiy’s Republican Strategy

By Guest Columnist Jun 08, 2009

by Anusuya Sivaram As soon as Tim Pawlenty announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2010, most people found it safe to assume that he’d run for President in 2012. Given the plethora of Republican hopefuls, and their diverse visions for the party, I was curious to see what sets the Minnesotan governor apart from the pack. Governor Pawlenty’s legislative record makes him out to be a moderate Republican—understandable in a state that hasn’t gone Republican in a presidential election since 1976. Though he ran on a platform that was socially and fiscally conservative, he did support measures that would allow patients to buy prescription drugs from Canada, and funded projects to improve alternative energy production in Minnesota. Furthermore, Pawlenty has pledged to obey the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in the Coleman-Franken race, a move that would result in the governor seating a Democrat and solidifying the party’s Senate majority. In his two terms as governor, Pawlenty signed a lot of pro life legislation, addressed a $4.5 billion deficit without raising taxes, and cut a lot of social welfare spending. Many of these programs were aimed to help marginalized communities. Pawlenty vetoed 34 of the bills sent to him by the Democratic state legislature in the past year, more than any other Minnesota governor since WWII.
Aside from his tenure as governor, Pawlenty has been clear about his vision for the Republican Party. In a speech at the Republican Governor’s Association shortly after the election, Pawlenty called upon the party to diversify its base both regionally and racially, citing the party’s deficit in Black, Latino, and women voters as an obstacle to progress. Pawlenty’s successful bid for governor in 2002 rested upon his philosophy of reaching out to Republicans that went to “Sam’s Club” instead of the country club. Pawlenty’s rhetoric is significantly more inclusive than many of his counterparts—instead of heeding calls for a return to the party’s conservative roots from party stalwarts such as Newt Gingrich, or prominent conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Pawlenty feels Republicans need to adapt to changing times. The most important thing I’m taking away from Tim Pawlenty’s announcement is the fact that more Republicans are realizing the importance of marginalized groups in the electorate—and not just acknowledging their presence by condemning affirmative action whenever legitimate questions of race and participation arise. Instead, Republicans like Pawlenty are beginning to take small steps to reach out to marginalized demographics on a substantive level, instead of claiming colorblindness. Still, they have a long way to go in making their actions mimic their rhetoric—even Pawlenty. Only when the party’s new vision and policy coincide will it stand a chance in an election. I think race matters in every election, and it looks like some Republicans agree. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a rundown of Pawlenty’s potential as a fresh face for the GOP.