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GOP: Grand Ofay Party? (Update)

Some radical voices are suggesting that the Republican party simply doesn't give a damn about anyone but white people.

DailyKos? MoveOn? Hillary? Um . . . no. Try Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich:

"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 (N.Y.), 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 (Ga.), who has not yet ruled out a White House run himself. "I hope they will reverse their decision and change their schedules. I see no excuse -- this thing has been planned for months, these candidates have known about it for months. It's just fundamentally wrong. Any of them who give you that scheduling-conflict answer are disingenuous. That's baloney."
Wow. The GOP indifferent to everyone but white folks. White straight folks, I should add. White, straight, middle-class or better folks. White, straight, middle-class or better, religious folks.

It's the big tent of the GOP. The big white tent. A little roomier every year.

UPDATE: A commenter has taken me to task for suggesting that the GOP has a race problem. I refer gentle readers to this, in USAToday, dated 7/14/2005:

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman apologized to one of the nation's largest black civil rights groups Thursday, saying Republicans had not done enough to court blacks in the past and had exploited racial strife to court white voters, particularly in the South. [My bold.]

"Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization," Mehlman said at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Mehlman's apology to the NAACP at the group's convention in Milwaukee marked the first time a top Republican Party leader has denounced the so-called Southern Strategy employed by Richard Nixon and other Republicans to peel away white voters in what was then the heavily Democratic South. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Republicans encouraged disaffected Southern white voters to vote Republican by blaming pro-civil rights Democrats for racial unrest and other racial problems.

More recently, however, Republicans have been working aggressively to build the party's support among African-Americans, who have long voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. In 2000, President Bush got just 9% of the black vote. He improved slightly to 11% in 2004.

"It's clear the Republicans really are trying to make inroads with black voters," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta and co-author of The Rise of Southern Republicans.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush agreed with Mehlman, although the president did not express similar regrets in the speech Thursday to the Indiana Black Expo in Indianapolis.

"Ken (Mehlman) said it was wrong to try and benefit from racial polarization. We agree fully," McClellan said.

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“GOP: Grand Ofay Party? (Update)”

  1. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    I don't see many Democrats coming to pro-life conferences or Federalist Society meetings. Is it possible they decided the best use of limited time and resources would be to try to sway moderates and not a core opposition constituency?

    No, that can't be it. They're racists, haters and theocrats, all of them.

    I do agree that the refusal to appear at the event is stupid and the excuses are weak.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Race is not ideology. And it's not me suggesting the GOP has issues dealing with non-whites. That's Jack and Newt.

  3. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    Well, maybe they actually have the interests of minorities in mind. They might not want minority voters to be scorned as "acting white" by showing up at a Republican debate.

  4. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    When blacks vote 80+% Democratic, why would you be assume Republican motives are based on racism and not on simple political reality?

    That blacks tend to have political beliefs which are at odds with the GOP doesn't make Republicans racists. Racism is a very serious charge and shouldn't be thrown around lightly.

    Jack and Newt didn't say the GOP has issues "dealing with" blacks. You paraphrased their statements to make it sound like Republicans don't want to be around dark-hued people. That's a pile of BS. Don't misquote Gingrich and Kemp to suit your prejudices.

  5. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    I must have missed the part where I said "racism." Maybe you can point it out to me.

    I quoted Newt and Jack precisely by linking to them. Kemp is known to be critical of the GOP's relationship with blacks, going back for decades.

    The GOP's history of profiting from the Democratic embrace of civil rights is well-known. If I'm not mistaken, I seem to recall that George W. Bush acknowledged this fact in public statements. It is simply historical fact to note that the GOP has lost virtually all black voters while gaining southern white voters.

    As to the final paragraph, with which part do you disagree? That the GOP ignores blacks? Of course they do, and you offer their justification. That they have alienated Latinos? See Kemp and Gingrich (and George W. Bush and John McCain, by the way.) Are they reaching out to gays, inviting them into the tent? No. Are they throwing the doors open to the poor? I must have missed that. And the non-religious? Please.

    Everything I said was true. The GOP is the party of middle-class and rich white people who attend church. Don't rely on me: Karl Rove built his career on that reality.

  6. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    There's a difference between fact and interpretation. I agreed with you that it's wrong and foolish for the GOP to ignore these debates and minority voters. You ascribed the actions to callous indifference at best and racism at worst: "The GOP is indifferent to everyone but white folks." Kayne West much?

    I'm calling BS, Michael, because you're smarter than this. You know politics, you know history, and to charge that Republicans' difficulties in attracting black voters is due simply to malicious indifference is stupid and needlessly inflammatory. But if you want to throw those kinds of charges around, there's plenty of blame to share. You know perfectly well the Democrats have been willing to capitalize on (and even inflame) racial conflict for political gain.

    And as far as caring about minority concerns, be careful what you wish for. The Democrats pretty much destroyed the black family with their concern.

  7. Blogger Internet Ronin Says:

    Although I haven't seen anything he's done in years (so maybe he's changed), I can't blame any Republican candidate for being unwilling to participate in a debate organized by Tavis Smiley. The questions would be too loaded to make it worthwhile.

    That said, I think Gingrich and Kemp have a good point, to a point, but Jeff has made a few very worthy points here as well. As far as the fact that the GOP is largely "the party of middle-class and rich white people who attend church," yes that is largely true. You seem to find evil intent in the fact. I don't. That's just life and people of like minds wrt politics joining together. They aren't excluding anyone, Michael. All are welcome to their party. Those who aren't comfortable there won't go. If they changed their political beliefs in order to attract more of these or those, then they would cease to be any different than the other party. I don't agree with their platform so I'm not interested in being a member.

  8. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    I'm getting a disconnect here, and if it were not with you, Jeff, who I know to be a calm and rational person, I'd probably be getting annoyed at accusations which I don't think relate to what I actually wrote. I wonder if the disconnect is on the term "Ofay." That is not slang for "racist" it's just derisive slang for "white."

    I haven't accused the GOP of racism. I quoted Gingrich and Kemp and later (in response to your comments) Ken Melman and Bush's then spokesmodel.

    The sum total of my comments amounted to pointing out that the GOP wasn't just the non-black party, it's also the non-gay, non-agnostic, non-poor party. It is the affluent, white, straight, religious party.

    I never used the "R" word. I don't believe the GOP is racist. I believe the GOP is cynical. They exploited race -- as they now admit -- from the days of the Southern Strategy, up through Willie Horton. The cynical exploitation of voter's baser feelings is not unique to this issue, or to the GOP, but it is a fact that when they've felt it would be useful they have made appeals to racist voters.

    Please note the difference between racist voters and a racist party.

    This GOP willingness to play the race card, starting back in the 60's, is the reason black voter registration shifted en masse to the Democratic party which, of course, had been historically the party that supported slavery and Jim Crow.

    Republicans are ashamed of this legacy. They should be. They try to spin it this way or that, but the fact is that the GOP did cynically exploit LBJ's shift toward civil rights. And they exploited racial fear and animosity when George HW Bush pulled out Willie Horton. To the extent they never called down our own Jesse Helms, they continued playing this game at the more local level.

    So far, those are all facts, not open to much dispute. I'm citing solely GOP authority to support a case that is widely known.

    As I said above, it's less about the "R" word and more about the "C" word, cynicism. For the record, my first vote was for Richard Nixon over George McGovern in an election where all of this was still very fresh in our minds. I'm not a racist, I voted for NIxon, and a lot of voters who were racists voted for Nixon. So, obviously, I didn't think then, nor do I think now, that the GOP is a racist party, or a party of racists. It is however a party that added racists to its coalition, did so deliberately, did so consciously and cynically. And has admitted same.

    The question of their non-attendance at the Tavis Smiley event was criticized by Jack and Newt. They criticize because Jack Kemp is a decent guy, and because Gingrich is a loon but an idealist in his own way, and they both understand the legacy. And they both want to undo that legacy. They are trying to get their party to reverse course, to abandon the vestiges of the Southern Strategy, pivot, and begin making their case to blacks (who are, after all, socially conservative) and Hispanics (who are also socially conservative.)

    The GOP cannot continue to get elected at the national level in this country if it remains the party of affluent religious white people. They need to reach out to minorities for reasons of basic math: that's where the voters are.

    And they need to reach out because governing from the base alone is a disastrous way to govern. When you govern from the base you have no reservoir of trust when the shit hits the fan in, say, a mismanagaed war.

    Jack and Newt are right. Ken Melman is right. And if you want a healthy and strong GOP you should be willing to admit that yes, the party cynically exploited race. Then you supersede that legacy by being willing now to make your political case to blacks. It's good politics, it's good governance, and the GOP candidates made a mistake in not reaching out.

  9. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    They aren't excluding anyone, Michael. All are welcome to their party.

    See above overly-wordy response to Jeff.

    On this particular point, there's active exclusion and there's passive exclusion. Given the GOP's recent history (since the 60's) if they are interested in bringing new black voters to the party they need to make an effort.

    Some GOP pols have made that effort. In fact, early on it looked as if Mr. Bush was making an effort. But you cannot admit, as historians know, as Ken Melman agreed, that the GOP exploited race to gain votes, and then expect black voters to simply intuit that tose days are over and now it's safe in the GOP tent. Some effort must be expended.

    Mr. Bush refused, for example, to speak to the NAACP until 2006. Hostile audience? Sure. But if you want to convince people who don't support you to change their minds it's going to mean facing hostile audiences.

    We went with barely a pause from Nixon's Southern Strategy to the Rove Base Strategy. In other words, assemble a southern and western coalition using race-coded appeals in part, then with barely a pause for "sorry about that" go into a bunker strategy that amounts to holding onto that coalition and demonstrating indifference to potential new voters. At what point in there would blacks get the idea they are welcomed in the GOP?

  10. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    The GOP cannot continue to get elected at the national level in this country if it remains the party of affluent religious white people. They need to reach out to minorities for reasons of basic math: that's where the voters are.

    And they need to reach out because governing from the base alone is a disastrous way to govern. ...

    ... there's active exclusion and there's passive exclusion. Given the GOP's recent history (since the 60's) if they are interested in bringing new black voters to the party they need to make an effort.

    Agreed on all the above, including your assessment of history and its importance. I even agree with Kemp and Gingrich.

    I think the GOP's answers to the concerns of minority voters are very different from those of the party which gets 90% of their vote, they recognize it's a tough sell, and they've found lower-hanging electoral fruit. But I do not believe the GOP "doesn't care about non-whites."

  11. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    But I do not believe the GOP "doesn't care about non-whites."

    That was carelessly worded on my part. I think you're thinking non-white people, and I was thinking non-white voters.

    I actually think the best thing for African-Americans -- people not just voters -- would be an embrace of GOP free-market, capitalist, Calvinist principles. (Of course it would be great if many in the GOP embraced those principles, too.) I'm not one of those who endorse capitalism at an almost religious level, but the path to success in this country is by following the path of education, risk, and the rolled-up-sleeve.

  12. Blogger amba Says:

    Huckabee, too:

    Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee of Arkansas said Friday his fellow Republicans would be making a devastating mistake in the race for the White House if they ignore minorities, unions and other traditionally Democratic groups. ...

    He said he also plans to participate in a PBS debate on minority issues because he believes it is critical that Republicans speak to these concerns.

    "If Republicans don't win minority votes and votes that we traditionally don't get, Hillary Clinton's the next president," Huckabee said ...

  13. Blogger Internet Ronin Says:

    FWIW, I think I am generally agreeing with you, Michael, just not expressing it as forcefully as you are, and quibbling, perhaps, on a couple of details. As for the code word thing, there may be some of that, but it seems to me that a lot of what has been trumpeted as code word also turned out to be completely unintended. I agree, that depends on one's own particular viewpoint, so YMMV.

    As for their tactics in general, the idea for whoever is running this campaign now (whatever, whenever, whoever that is) is to win now. Long term strategy rarely plays a part. What Pete Wilson did in California in 1990 did serious damage to the California Republican Party but it got Pete Wilson elected and guaranteed his reelection in 1994. That's all he cared about. That's all almost every politician cares about.

    WRT Bush and the NAACP: Oh, I don't know, The NAACP ran a horrific ad in black communities nationwide that fell just short of accusing Bush of responsibility for the murder of James Byrd, Jr. And unlike the infamous Willie Horton ad, which IIRC ran only once, this one was broadcast repeatedly. And the demonization of Bush by the NAACP continued apace from the moment he set foot in the White House. Maybe a bigger man would have overlooked it. Maybe bigger men & women in the NAACP could have made even a token effort to tone down their rhetoric. He wasn't. Neither were they. So it goes.

  14. Anonymous I.M. Small Says:


    It was well-known that Bush engaged
    In slander, or more subtly
    Had henchmen as covertly waged,
    If never too covertly--

    Nor even of his partymen
    Did any raise a finger,
    Much less to wag; so after then
    The consequence must linger.

    The populace but saw good sport in
    Fear-mongeringĀ“s worst tactics,
    As negritude of Willie Horton
    Made them seek prophylactics.

    So too the dipping into swill
    Gave dippers so much promise,
    As when there was a seat to fill
    The justice named was Thomas.

    (Again, thank goodness, words reveal
    Their fortitude with time,
    Or lack thereof: what they conceal
    Fall out just like sub-prime.)

    It was not hardly hidden from
    The populace at large,
    As even now has yet to come
    To terms with treasonĀ“s barge,

    As blithely so it sails away
    Unto a sure perdition:
    We are the heirs of yesterday,
    So sins come to fruition.

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