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“A Monopoly On Stupid Comments”: Offensive Republican Rhetoric Is Backed By Offensive Republican Policies

As the nation’s attention turns to the 50th anniversary of the March of Washington, Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee are at least making an effort to show the public the party takes race, diversity, and civil rights seriously. Whether these efforts have merit is a separate question.

Keli Goff reports this morning that Priebus took questions from a handful of African-American journalists following an official RNC luncheon yesterday, and Goff asked the party leader an interesting question.

I asked Priebus, whether in light of the many racially inflammatory comments made by Republican leaders recently (which you can read herehere and here) and the many more made by Republican leaders as a whole since President Obama took office (which you can read here), if he as party leader would consider apologizing on behalf of the party for such rhetoric and setting a zero-tolerance policy so that such rhetoric stops being commonplace. The chairman replied that he has criticized specific Republicans for specific instances of offensive language, most notably when he pressed for the resignation of an Illinois Republican Party leader who made racist and sexist comments about multiracial Republican congressional candidate Erika Harold. But in a baffling turn, Priebus then seemed to insinuate that the GOP doesn’t have any more of a racist rhetoric problem than Democrats.

“Look I don’t think either party has a monopoly on stupid comments,” he told The Root. “I think both parties have said plenty of stupid things and when people in our party say them, I’m pretty bold in coming out and talking about them, whether it be the issue in Illinois [involving Erika Harold] or Todd Akin or a variety of issues.”

When Goff reminded Priebus that one of his predecessors, former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, apologized at an NAACP event for Republicans exploiting racial tensions for electoral gain, Priebus responded, “I don’t know what the back story is. You’re giving me facts and back channel information I’m not aware of.”

Nevertheless, the RNC chair’s response was unsatisfying for a variety of reasons.

When it comes to race, saying that the parties are effectively the same on “stupid comments” is belied by the facts. Indeed, it’s not even close — Republicans are the party of birthers. They’re the party of Rep. Steve “Cantaloupe” King and Gov. Paul “Kiss My Butt” LePage. It was Republican Don Young who talked about “wetbacks” in March, and it was Republican Sarah Palin who talked about “shuck and jive” during the 2012 campaign.

Obviously, plenty of Democrats make plenty of stupid comments all the time, but to hear Priebus tell it, specifically on race, there’s nothing especially unique about Republicans’ troubles. I think the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

What’s more, this isn’t just about offensive rhetoric; it’s about offensive policies. Republican policymakers nationwide continue to approve voter-suppression laws that deliberately target minority communities.

And therein lies part of the RNC’s problem: Priebus seems eager to do the right thing so he can expand his party’s old, white base, but he just doesn’t have anything constructive to offer in the way of solutions. He seems aware of the fact that he has a problem, but doesn’t know what to do about it, exactly, except say nice things about outreach.

Priebus will need far more.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 27, 2013

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Eve Of Destruction”: Behind The GOP Curtain, The Year That Has Been, The Year That Is About To Be

It is almost impossible to find an establishment Republican in town who’s not downright morose about the 2013 that has been and is about to be. Most dance around it in public, but they see this year as a disaster in the making, even if most elected Republicans don’t know it or admit it.

Several influential Republicans told us the party is actually in a worse place than it was Nov. 7, the day after the disastrous election. This is their case:

The party is hurting itself even more with the very voters they need to start winning back: Hispanics, blacks, gays, women and swing voters of all stripes.

The few Republicans who stood up and tried to move the party ahead were swatted into submission: Speaker John Boehner on fiscal matters and Sen. Marco Rubio on immigration are the poster boys for this.

Republicans are all flirting with a fall that could see influential party voices threatening to default on the debt or shut down the government — and therefore ending all hopes of proving they are not insane when it comes to governance.

These Republicans came into the year exceptionally hopeful the party would finally wise up and put immigration and irresponsible rhetoric and governing behind them. Instead, Republicans dug a deeper hole. This probably doesn’t matter for 2014, because off-year elections are notoriously low-turnout affairs where older whites show up in disproportionate numbers. But elite Republican strategists and donors tell us they are increasingly worried the past nine months make 2016 look very bleak — unless elected GOP officials in Washington change course, and fast.

The blown opportunities and self-inflected wounds are adding up:

Hispanics. Nearly every Republican who stumbled away from 2012 promised to quit alienating the fastest-growing demographic in American politics. So what have they done since? Alienated Hispanic voters — again.

It is easy to dismiss as anomaly some of the nasty rhetoric — such as Rep. Don Young calling immigrants “wetbacks” or Rep. Steve King suggesting the children of illegal immigrants are being used as drug mules. But it’s impossible for most Hispanics not to walk away from the immigration debate believing the vast majority of elected Republicans are against a pathway to citizenship.

House Republicans are dragging their feet on immigration reform — a measure that most Republican leaders agree is essential to getting back in the game with Hispanic voters before the next presidential election. House leaders say there’s no chance they’ll bring up the broad measure that has passed the Senate. Instead, they plan a piecemeal, one-bill-a-month approach that is likely to suffocate comprehensive reform.

Some Republicans are praying that leaders will find a way to jam through something President Barack Obama can sign. But current signs point to failure. The House will be tied up all fall over fiscal issues — and there’s unlikely to be time to litigate immigration reform even if most members want to, which they don’t.

“If Republicans don’t pass immigration reform, it’ll be a black cloud that’ll follow the party around through the next presidential election and possibly through the decade,” warned Scott Reed, senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

African Americans. Republicans hurt themselves with other minorities by responding lamely — and, in some cases, offensively — to the Trayvon Martin case, and to the Supreme Court ruling that gutted Voting Rights Act protections.

“You can perform an autopsy until you’re blue in the face,” said Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chairman, now with Purple Nation Solutions. “But if the people you’re trying to reach have no faith or trust in the words you are saying, it doesn’t matter.”

It would be easy to dismiss Steele as bitter because he was forced out of the RNC and has feuded with his successor, Reince Priebus, since. But he has done something few Republicans have: risen to the top of American politics as a black Republican. On voting rights, Steele said, the party needs to actively deal with African-American complaints about voter suppression and impediments to voters’ registration. “We need to be saying: ‘We respect, yes, the rule of law. But we also respect your constitutional right to vote,’” he said. “We just can’t sit back and rely on, ‘Oh, gee, you know, we freed the slaves.’”

Steele was even more incensed about Republican reaction to the Martin case. “What African-Americans heard was insensitive,” he said. “Republicans gave a very sterile or pro forma response. There was no sense of even expressing regret or remorse to Trayvon’s mother.”

Republicans tell us privately that pressure from conservative media only encourages their public voices to say things that offend black audiences.

Gays. Polls show the Republicans’ traditional view is rapidly becoming a minority view in politics, but the party has done nothing this year to make itself more appealing to persuadable gay voters.

“We come off like we’re angry and frustrated that more of our fellow Americans aren’t angry and frustrated,” said a senior Mitt Romney campaign official who asked not to be named.

Republicans did show progress in the form of restraint, with many leaders offering a muted reaction to a pair of Supreme Court rulings related to same-sex marriage. In the past, many would have taken to the airwaves to condemn what they see as the crumbling culture around them. A number of top Republicans are counseling a more libertarian approach, letting people live their lives and letting states, or better the church, set the rules for marriage at the local level.

Swing voters. Republicans are in jeopardy of convincing voters they simply cannot govern. Their favorable ratings are terrible and getting worse. But there is broad concern it could go from worse to an unmitigated disaster this fall. Most urgently, according to a slew of key Republicans we interviewed, conservative GOP senators have got to give up their insistence that the party allow the government to shut down after Sept. 30 if they don’t get their way on defunding Obamacare.

The quixotic drive — led by Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — is part of Rubio’s effort to make up with the conservative base after he was stunned by the backlash over his deal-making on immigration. Pollsters say the funding fight makes Republicans look even more obstructionist and causes voters to worry about the effect a shutdown would have on their own finances.

Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research, who has been drilling down on this issue for the conservative public-opinion group Resurgent Republic, said: “Shutting down the government is the one way that Republicans can turn Obamacare from a political advantage to a political disadvantage in 2014.”

 

By: Jim Vandehi and Mike Allen, Politico, August 16, 2013

August 17, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Diversity Deserts”: A Party Chronically Hostile To “Otherness”

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just a week ago, the Republicans issued their much-ballyhooed “autopsy” on why they lost the presidential election last year and how they might remedy their problems.

They concluded that their principles were fine; the problem was how they presented those principles. Their witless wisdom is simply to tone down their rhetoric. They want to turn Teddy Roosevelt’s famous saying on its side: Talk softly but carry a big stigma.

The establishment Republicans’ push for a softer tone, however, is pure political scheming and has nothing to do with what most Republicans seem to fundamentally believe.

And many rank-and-file Republicans are adopting this two-faced tactic. A Pew Research Center report issued Thursday found that although most Republicans say that “illegal immigrants” should be allowed to stay in this country legally, most also believe that immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and health care, and they threaten American values.

Try as you may, you can’t build a philosophical facade like a movie set — convincing in appearance, but having no real structure behind it — and expect it to forever fool and never fall.

The true convictions of your heart will, eventually, be betrayed by the disobedience of your tongue.

Enter Don Young of Alaska, a Republican congressman for the past 40 years who this week used a racial slur so vile and insensitive that it was hard to remember what decade we were in.

In an interview Thursday with an Alaska radio station, Young reminisced about his family’s employment of Mexican farm workers:

“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

The casual reference dripped with an inculcated insensitivity.

The same day, Young’s office issued a statement, which should in no way be misconstrued as an apology.

“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

No disrespect? Only a man drained of empathy could even make such a claim.

It wasn’t until Friday, after demands from Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain, that Young issued a real apology. But the damage may have already been done. These kinds of statements cement an image of a callous party moving contrary to public consciousness.

The question must be asked: Why do so many insensitive comments come from these Republicans?

One reason may well be their proximity problem.

Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade.

For instance, according to the Census Bureau, about 6 percent of Alaska’s population is Hispanic and just 3 percent is black. And Alaska is among the most Republican states in the union, according to a Gallup report issued last year.

Too many House Republicans have districts dominated by narrow, single-note, ideology-driven constituencies that see an ever expanding “them” threatening the heritage of a slowly shrinking “us.”

This defensive posture is what so poisons the Republicans’ presidential ambitions. Instead of embracing change, Republicans want to suspend or in some cases reverse it. But the principle articulated by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus rings true: the only thing constant is change.

With the exception of a few districts, a map of the areas in this country with the fewest minorities looks strikingly similar to a map of the areas from which Congressional Republicans hail.

In fact, although this is the most diverse Congress in history, not one of the blacks or Asians in the House is a Republican. Only about a sixth of the Hispanics are Republicans, and fewer than a third of the women are.

The Republican Party has a severe minority problem. People like Don Young only serve to illustrate and amplify it. Young is another unfortunate poster child for a party fighting an image of being chronically hostile to “otherness.” No disrespect.

 

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 29, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“So Much For Sincerity”: Republicans’ Hispanic Outreach Effort Off To A Rocky Start

In January, not long after President Barack Obama trounced Mitt Romney by 44 percent among Latino voters, the GOP-aligned Hispanic Leadership Network issued a new set of “tonally sensitive messaging points” for Republicans to use when engaging with Latino and Hispanic voters. The idea behind the memo seemed to be that, if Republicans won’t attract Hispanics with appealing policy proposals, they should at least try to stop driving them away with racially charged language.

Clearly, Representative Don Young (R-AK) didn’t get the message.

Congressman Young went disastrously off-script during an interview with Alaskan radio station KRBD, released Thursday, when he used a racial slur to describe the workers on his father’s ranch.

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

Quickly realizing that he had made a tremendous error, Young issued an apology of sorts late Thursday night.

“I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California,” Young said in a statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

Putting aside the question of what context Young thinks could possibly make the term “wetback” acceptable—or for that matter, not disrespectful—his explanation clearly fails to undo the damage done by his offensive statement.

With an eye towards damage control, Republican leaders quickly blasted Young’s comments.

“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement. “I don’t care why he said it—there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus concurred, saying “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party,” adding, “Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse.”

Indeed, it was Priebus who just last week released a report urging that “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.” In just 10 days since that report, Young labeled Hispanic workers as wetbacks, Senate Republicans started a racially charged campaign against President Obama’s only Latino cabinet nominee, and North Carolina governor Pat McCrory unceremoniously shuttered his state’s Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs. And that’s not even touching the Conservative Political Action Conference, which featured birther jokes and a minority “outreach” panel arguing that slavery was good for black Americans.

So much for showing sincerity.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the GOP’s minority outreach program is simple: Most Republicans seem to have very little interest in actually appealing to minority communities. Polling suggests that Hispanic voters align much more closely with Democrats than Republicans on a wide range of social and economic issues. But instead of working to find common ground on these policy splits, Republicans chose to simply soften their rhetoric — and they haven’t even done that successfully.

If Republican politicians cannot even uphold their own “stop using racial slurs” rule, then their chances of making real inroads with minority communities seem more remote than ever.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 28, 2013

March 30, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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