Not showing up at debates and not meeting with groups that are focused on communities of color seem to be a habit for the front runners in the Republican Party. Quite frankly it was appalling to see that none of the four front runners for the Republican presidential nomination showed up at last week’s debate focusing on issued facing the African American community at Morgan State University.
“We sound like we don’t want immigration; we sound like we don’t want black people to vote for us,” said former congressman Jack Kemp (R- NY), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. “What are we going to do — meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we’re going to be competitive with people of color, we’ve got to ask them for their vote.”
Making matters worse, some Republicans believe, is that the decision to bypass the Morgan State forum comes after all top GOP candidates save McCain declined invitations this month to a debate on Univision, the most-watched Hispanic television network in the United States. The event was eventually postponed.
“For Republicans to consistently refuse to engage in front of an African American or Latino audience is an enormous error,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R- GA.). It’s just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That’s baloney.”
Giuliani, Romney and McCain also declined to appear at events sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the National Urban League, and the NAACP which some say suggests a pattern of ignoring minority voters. I tend to agree. Quite frankly I think that Jack Kemp scored a bull’s eye when he suggested that the Republican might as well just meet at Country Clubs. But heck even some of the snootiest Country Clubs such as Baltisrol in New Jersey had to abandon their “exclusive” policies in order to be on the PGA Tour!
But while the GOP campaigns have generally offered no public rationale other than timing for missing the forums, an adviser to one candidate suggested they had little to gain from attending an event such as the debate at Morgan State according to an article in the Washington Post. “What’s the win?” said the adviser, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Why would [the candidates] go into a crowd where they’re probably going to be booed?” My question is- maybe there is a reason that these crowds would boo you? Ignoring them ensures that they will always boo you. Besides- the candidates that did show up hardly were booed.
On “Meet the Press”, radical right commentator Pat Buchanan also suggested that it was total political calculus. Buchanan noted that there were few black voters in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. So what? Does that mean communities of color don’t really matter until you have to court them in the general election? Mr. Buchanan’s explanation is blatant political cynicism.
These early days before the primary season begins are really the only opportunity when folks from both parties can really look at the entire field of candidates in both parties. Face it, once the primary season starts- it will only be a few weeks before we know who are the candidates in each party since so many states will hold their primaries earlier than ever.
Sure the politics is partisan now- but wait until March or April when parties will be backing their candidates and things boil down to two options. All the candidates, in both parties, owe it to all Americans to speak to all Americans now. This is the first time since 1952 that there hasn’t been a sitting Vice President or President running for office making it more important for us to hear from all of the choices in both the parties.
Yes I am a liberal Democrat, but I have been paying attention to the Republicans and even though I completely disagree with him on virtually every subject, I have to admit I like Mike Huckabee (R-AR). He has integrity. His positions reflect who he is and not who he thinks people want him to be. He showed up to the debate at Morgan State and stated “I’m embarrassed for our party. I’m embarrassed for those who did not come.” I’ve heard him described as a conservative who isn’t angry about it. Although I would oppose Hucakbee vigorously in a general election, it would certainly be an invigorating and impassioned campaign. If it hadn’t been for the debates, I really wouldn’t know how much I admire Huckabee because I disagree with his positions so much.
But as far as the current crop of front runners in the GOP- I think the answer to my question – “Are they racist, ignorant or cynical?” – is that it is a mixture of all three.
GOP policies have not been friendly towards communities of color, gays and lesbians or any minority group- so I do think that these folks are racist and homophobic- with few exceptions. Most of the GOP remind me of a dear friend of mine who is also a Republican.
My friend can never seem to talk about someone who is Asian, African American, Latino or gay without pre-defining them as her “Asian neighbor” or “Lesbian friend” and always stating that of course I should know that it doesn’t make any difference to her. As much as I love my friend- whenever you have to define someone by race or sexual orientation and follow it by a declaration that it really doesn’t matter, it sounds like “some of my best friends are…”. It’s racism and homophobia and in some ways it is more disconcerting to me than full on expressions of hatred. The racism is subtle but it is there and by always adding that caveat about race not mattering it means that the possibility of ever recognizing it as inherently, it will never be appropriately addressed. The GOP frontrunners seem to embody this mix of racism and ignorance.
The “some of my best friend are” attitude is not only racist at its core but also very ignorant. Quite frankly as a white man I can not understand what it is like day in and day out to have people see my color first- I can hail a cab and not worry that I won’t be picked up due to my race.
And as for cynical- I think that if, as Mr. Buchanan suggested, there was political calculus involved in the decision not the show up at Morgan State, it is the height of cynicism. I would have a similar problem if Democrats didn’t show up to an NRA event- if they were invited.
So Republicans should hang their heads in shame. The GOP frontrunners seem to express racsim, ignorance and cynism as bywords for their party. They did nothing to ease any tensions that the party has with people of color and actually exacerbated the problem. If you are afraid of a little booing- you won’t do very well in a job where every day you will have to deal with people and countries that don’t much like you.
But the prolem is not the booing the problem is that these candidates intrinsicly don’t understand nor do they care about communities of color.