Much attention has been paid to the awful moment during Tuesday’s proceedings at the Republican National Convention, when two delegates threw nuts at a black CNN camerawoman and told her “this is how we feed the animals.”
To the GOP’s credit, security swiftly ejected the two bigots from the convention and the party put out a statement condemning the embarrassment as “deplorable” and “inexcusable.” But the Republican party does not seem willing to confront the larger issue: This convention and the party it reflects have a serious race problem.
The RNC has made a concerted effort to highlight the party’s inclusiveness by giving prime speaking slots to Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mia Love, Brian Sandoval, and Condoleezza Rice, among other speakers of color. That diversity is not reflected in the startlingly monochromatic convention audience, however. Although the RNC does not keep exact demographic statistics, The Grio reports that various counts show between 28 and 47 black delegates at this year’s convention, out of 2,286 total. That’s less than 2 percent.
That lack of diversity is also reflected in polls of the presidential race. Mitt Romney, who quickly identified immigration as an issue where he could veer to the right of his opponents in the Republican primary, now trails President Obama among Latino voters by a 39 point margin. His standing among African-Americans is exponentially worse; according to one recent poll, black voters favor President Obama over Romney by a 94 to zero percent margin. Yes, a major party candidate for president of the United States is polling at zero percent among African-Americans.
Rather than reach out to minority communities, however, Romney and the Republicans seem intent on belittling them. Much of the 2012 convention has been devoted to widely debunked lies that President Obama has eliminated the work requirement from welfare, and that he’s robbing Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act (which right wingers consider to be the ultimate government handout.) The message could not be more clear: Obama is giving your hard earned money to indolent, dependent blacks.
In a telling exchange on Wednesday, would-be first lady Ann Romney tried to woo Latino voters by telling them to “wake up” and “get past some of their biases” and vote Republican. In her mind Latinos are the ones who are biased against Republicans. One wonders where she was when Puerto Rican National Committee Woman Zoraida Fonalledas’ convention speech was interrupted by delegates chanting “U.S.A.!”
As Ron Brownstein of National Journal and others have reported, Mitt Romney likely needs to win about 61 percent of the white vote in order to capture the White House. As this campaign and convention show, he is going all in on that gamble. But as one Republican strategist told Brownstein, “this is the last time anyone will try” to win an election with an almost completely segregated constituency. Even if Romney does squeak out a narrow win with a white supermajority, the long term damage done by his campaign’s race-baiting may take years for Republicans to reverse.
Photo Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall