There was some talk, early on in Bush’s first term, that the Republican Party really, truly intended to take minority outreach seriously. The chairman of the RNC appeared at an NAACP conference to apologize for the party’s past, and White House officials thought they could make a second term more likely if they could boost Republican numbers in the African-American community, even just a little.
But this talk hasn’t necessarily produced results.
Just a few years after the Republican Party launched a highly publicized diversity effort, the GOP is heading into the 2008 election without a single minority candidate with a plausible chance of winning a campaign for the House, the Senate or governor.
At a time when Democrats are poised to knock down a historic racial barrier with their presidential nominee, the GOP is fielding only a handful of minority candidates for Congress or statehouses — none of whom seem to have a prayer of victory.
At the start of the Bush years, the Republican National Committee — in tandem with the White House — vowed to usher in a new era of GOP minority outreach. As George W. Bush winds down his presidency, Republicans are now on the verge of going six — and probably more — years without an African-American governor, senator or House member.
That’s the longest such streak since the 1980s…. Despite having a Spanish-speaking “compassionate conservative” in the White House, Republicans’ diversity deficit seems to have only widened.
I’m not at all prepared to call Bush a “Spanish-speaking” president, but the broader point is still interesting. Despite some talk to the contrary, the overwhelmingly white party is staying that way.
Oliver Willis noted the circumstances that have contributed to these results: “Wanted: Racial minorities to stab your own people in the back, provide cover to destructive policies. Perks include a life long association with the party of Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, and The Southern Strategy. Inquire Within.”
Now, in fairness, I should note that when I saw this article earlier, my first instinct was, “Of course there are no minority candidates running as Republicans. No one wants to run as a Republican right now, regardless of race.” There’s probably something to this, right? If the GOP is having trouble recruiting candidates, it stands to reason that it’s going to have even more trouble recruiting minority candidates, given the Republicans’ history.
That said, the lack of effort is pretty obvious.
Jack Kemp, the former Republican congressman and vice presidential nominee, says the culprit is clear: a “pitiful” recruitment effort by his party. “I don’t see much of an outreach,” he said. “I don’t see much of a reason to run.” […]
[Former Rep. J.C. Watts, an Oklahoma Republican] rejects the argument that Republicans can’t compete for minority votes or successfully recruit minority candidates. He argues that the party simply hasn’t tried hard enough.
“Unless you have an infrastructure to build off of, it’s all throwing mud at the wall and hoping that some of it sticks,” said Watts. “There’s an entire infrastructure that needs to be thought through, and it seems to me no one is interested in building that.”
Sticking up for the party, I noticed one conservative blogger (via memeorandum) who argued, among other things, that the Politico article “fails to mention the 1994 banner year for blacks running for office on for [sic] the GOP.”
That’s true, I suppose, but 1994 was 14 years ago. The fact that the GOP went from having a “banner year” for minority candidates when the party was strong to having an abysmal year now that the party is weak doesn’t exactly help make the Republicans look better.