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Diversity on the Convention Stage
Sep 10, 2012
A friend recently described a drinking game that his daughter devised. Every time she saw a black person at the Republican National Convention, she would have to take a drink. “She says it's a way to stay sober all through the night.”
That joke was fair enough when applied to the conventioneers. Republicans attract very few African Americans. They do only a little better at attracting Latinos. You would know that the joke was very unfair if you were watching one of those networks that didn’t cut away whenever a minority speaker took the stage. I watched Mia Love’s excellent speech. Love is the daughter of immigrants from Haiti who, she told us, arrived in the United States with ten dollars between them. Love is mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. She is the first black woman to be mayor of a Utah city and if she succeeds in beating Democrat Jim Matheson in November she will be the first black woman to represent the Republican Party in Congress.
I listened to Artur Davis, a black moderate who found that there was no future for him in the Democratic Party. He switched to the Republican Party and will likely run for Congress. I listened with delight in large part because his gorgeous Alabama accent made me homesick for the South.
Also on the agenda was Condoleezza Rice, the first African American woman to serve as Secretary of State. Rice was frequently mentioned when political prognosticators were trying to guess who Mitt Romney would pick as his running mate. She seemed to rule out such a role, at least in this election. A lot of Republican ears perked up, however, when she spoke of America as a place where black parents could realistically hope that their daughter would grow up to be President.
If you are inclined to be cynical, you might think that this was all show. You’d be right of course, except for the “all” part. The Republicans certainly intended to send a message by putting blacks, Latinos and a lot of women on their program. Whatever you think of the GOP, you can’t complain that the convention stage did not achieve diversity.
In this case, it is impossible to doubt that the message was genuine. While the Republicans may be uncompetitive among black Americans, black Americans are very competitive among Republicans. All three speakers were enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd. Mia Love is a Tea Party favorite. The same was true of the many Latino speakers. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez brought down the house.
The Republicans were putting on a show, to be sure. That is what conventions are these days. It’s not just a show, however, when the party gives a prominent places to minority political stars at an event that draws tens of millions of television viewers. It’s not just a show when the party invests all its resources in these stars. That is a sign of progress.