After the Republican Party’s losses in the 2012 elections at the Presidential, Senate and House of Representatives, the GOP released an “Autopsy” report that called for Republican outreach to women, blacks, gays, Latinos and Asians. Several months later, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that the GOP was in a “demographic death spiral” that would continue unless and until the Republicans pass immigration reform and “get it off the table” in order to “get back in good graces with the Hispanic community.” Let’s see how that outreach is working for Republicans one year later:
In January of this year, 67 year-old Phil Robertson of the reality television program “Duck Dynasty” gave an interview to GQ Magazine in which he compared homosexuality to bestiality, said being gay is a sin that leads to the blurring of “what’s right and what’s wrong,” and lumped gays in with “drunks” and “terrorists.” If we’re not sure of the Robertson family’s (which Phil calls “Bible-thumpers”) party alliliation, one large hint came in January, as Republican Louisiana Congressman Vance McAllister brought Phil’s son Willie to President Obama‘s State of the Union Address and said that “I look forward to the two of us representing the Fifth District in D.C. this evening and bringing some diversity to our nation’s capitol.”
In March, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire Police Commissioner Bob Copeland called President Obama a “f___g n___r.” Copeland resigned this month after a massive public outcry, but he did not apologize for his remarks, and instead said that he was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.
In April, after years of defying federal law and court orders by grazing his cattle on federal land without paying, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy let loose about “the Negro”:
[T]here is always at least half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do…. And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
Also in April, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape telling a girlfriend not to be photographed with black people, and not to bring former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson to Clippers basketball games. Sterling is registered in Los Angeles County, California as a Republican.
Earlier this month, when football player Michael Sam became the first openly gay football player drafted by the National Football league and celebrated by kissing his boyfriend on live television, some Fox News personalities, including Donald Trump, sided against Sam and with Sam’s critics.
Leading Republicans Whitewash their Intolerance
While leading Republicans in elected office use more polite language than these people on their fringe, the idea is the same. For example, in March of this year, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan stated that:
We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
Ryan’s statement was similar to the “47 percent” remarks that put the final nail in the coffin of Willard Mitt Romney‘s 2012 Presidential campaign and let to the GOP Autopsy report in the first place. Ryan seems to be using the very “abstract … coded” Republican racist terminology that Republican strategist Lee Atwater referred to back in 1981.
Democrats’ Diverse Approach
In contrast to this Republican alienation of anyone other than old white men, just a few days ago, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a rousing speech before graduating high school students in Topeka Kansas, site of the original case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down segregated public schools as unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education exactly 60 years earlier. According to First Lady Obama:
With a woman Governor, a Latina Supreme Court Justice, a black President, you’ve seen Latino singers win Grammys, black coaches win Super Bowls. You’ve watched TV shows and characters of every background. So when you watch a show like ‘The Walking Dead,’ you don’t think it’s about a black guy, a black woman, an Asian guy, a gay couple and some white people. You think it’s about a bunch of folks trying to escape some zombies, right? Period. And then when some folks got all worked up about a cereal commercial with an interracial family, you all were probably thinking, ‘really? What’s the problem with that?’ When folks made a big deal about Jason Collins and Michael Sam coming out as gay, a lot of kids in your generation thought, ‘what is the issue here?’ And if someone were to say something racist on Twitter, well I imagine that many of you would tweet right back, letting them know that’s just not cool. You see, when you grow up in a place like Topeka, where diversity is all you’ve ever known, the old prejudices just don’t make any sense.
None of those items mentioned by Michelle Obama bode well for the Republican Party. If the Republicans do not become radically more tolerant very soon, and get rid of those “old prejudices,” they risk continuing their “death spiral” that Lindsey Graham mentioned. But if the Republicans do somehow make a sharp turn toward tolerance, they risk alienating their extremely intolerant base. Thus, it’s safe to say that the Republican Party faces quite a challenge.
Photo by Peter Stevens, used under Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1o0Ku4X