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Grumpy Old Party

The tone-deaf self-destructive direction of the Republican presidential candidates is reaching new heights, writes Rick Moran. It's getting tough to argue with those who paint it as the exclusive bastion of rich white men.

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September 27, 2007 - 12:30 am

By Rick Moran

This ain’t your daddy’s Republican party, that’s for sure.

More like your granddaddy’s.

The self-destructiveness of the Republican party reached some kind of dubious zenith this past fortnight when GOP candidates for President snubbed debates sponsored by two groups of voters the party hasn’t had a lot of luck with lately.

First, the Spanish language channel Univision was forced to cancel a Republican presidential candidate debate last week that would have been translated into Spanish and beamed to a couple of million potential voters. Apparently, none of the aspirants for the highest office in the land could read the invitation because it was in Spanish – or they had “scheduling conflicts” depending on what you really believe. One wonders what those “conflicts” might have been that kept all but one, lone GOP candidate – Arizonian John McCain – from accepting an invitation to address the concerns of the fastest growing demographic group in the country.

But hey! Don’t ever let anyone say that the GOP isn’t “reaching out” to Hispanics. Of course, most members of the party want Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to do the reaching. And then only to reach out and clap those here illegally in irons and send them back from where they came.

Now, enforcing the law is a good thing and comes highly recommended even by most legal immigrants to America. But the eagerness with which many Republicans have gone after the illegal immigrant problem, failing to take into account the sensibilities of the Hispanic community, has been a political disaster. And some of the more rabid suggestions about round ups and other draconian measures to “solve” the illegal immigration problem scares the pantalones off of legal immigrants who fear (not without justification) that they could be caught up in any such nationwide sweep.

So all the candidates but McCain suddenly discovered pressing engagements elsewhere and opted out of participating, fearing the wrath of the base who wouldn’t look too kindly on a candidate appearing in a forum where English was a second language.

What makes this move such an extraordinary example of tone deafness is that socially and culturally, Hispanics generally would be a nice fit with the Republican party. The GOP primary message of family values would no doubt strike a resonating chord with many in the family-oriented Hispanic community. And the Republican emphasis on the idea of America as the land of opportunity should also ring some bells among Hispanic voters.

But the GOP is acting as if they were running an election in 1980 and not 2008 where they could safely ignore what the census referred to at the time as “non-whites” and concentrate on piling up huge majorities among white males. This is no longer a viable electoral strategy.

Hispanics today make up almost 14% of the population, up from around 8% in 1980. By 2025, demographic trends predict Hispanics could make up almost a quarter of all Americans. By contrast, whites as a percentage of population have fallen from around 80% in 1980 to 72% today. Couple that with the declining ability of the GOP to attract younger, educated white males and you have a party on the verge of permanent minority status or oblivion, depending on how quickly Republicans can adapt.

Slighting Hispanics might be considered enough idiocy a political party could aspire to for an entire election cycle. But a little more than a week after turning down one minority group, the GOP made it a twofer by dissing African-Americans, having the four leading candidates for the party’s nomination suddenly discover that once again, that ubiquitous excuse of a “scheduling conflict” will keep them from attending a debate that PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley spent a year setting up.

The invites for the debate went out last March which means that either these candidates have the most tightly scheduled campaigns in history or they are lying through their teeth. Newt Gingrich goes for the latter explanation when he calls their excuse “baloney.” The last black GOP Member of Congress, former Congressman J.C. Watts who retired in 2002 said “You kind of scratch your head thinking why are they making decisions like that?” Watts went on to point out that one possible explanation for this stupidity is that none of the candidates have an African American in a senior staff position that could illustrate for them what a blunder they were making by passing on the debate.

Smiley, one of the sharpest talk show hosts around, seemed puzzled when he said on the Tonight Show, “What does it say when you don’t think that black issues and brown issues and issues for red and yellow:what does it say when you don’t think that all of us are valuable in this process?”

What it says is whatever your political opponents want to say about it. Sure enough, African-American New York Times columnist Bob Herbert unloaded on the Republican party in a blistering piece that pulled few punches:

They won’t be there. They can’t be bothered debating issues that might be of interest to black Americans. After all, they’re Republicans.

This is the party of the Southern strategy – the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. (Willie Horton) Bush, George W. (Compassionate Conservative) Bush – they all ran with that lousy pack.

And that was mild compared to what they’re saying about the GOP on blogs. And we’re still waiting for the race baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to weigh in on the issue. No doubt, they’ll have some pithy comments to make on the subject.

Face it my GOP friends; these snubs do not reveal a party that refuses to “pander” to ethnicity or race. It shows a party out of touch with modern America; a 21st century industrial democracy with 300 million people of every race, creed, color, and ethnic background on earth. It isn’t about pandering. It’s about listening. And parties that don’t listen to huge segments of the voting public lose elections. And they will keep losing elections until they either change or die.

Make no mistake. The modern Republican party is becoming monochromatic and regional in nature. It is bleeding supporters like a stuck pig; women, young folk, and working class whites are becoming Democrats right under your noses because you are failing to hear what they are telling you about issues that concern them.

Ducking debates because the audience is hostile or there are few votes to garner is stupid in this day and age. And the party is quite likely to pay for this shortsightedness on election day in 2008.


Rick Moran blogs at Right Wing Nut House.

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