The Republican Party and the conservative movement in America doesn’t really have a diversity problem as some would have us believe. The GOP can boast that it has several persons of color holding electoral office in the statehouse , the Senate and the House. Former Secretary of State Condi Rice received cheers during the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa.
The party doesn’t have a diversity problem per se. It most certainly does have an image problem.
The two most recent conflicts in the news: the flap over UN Ambassador Susan Rice and the defeat of a UN treaty on disabilities are not placing conservatives in a good light. There might be good reasons to oppose Ms. Rice and the UN treaty, but those reasons, however sensible they may be, are getting trampled by the images of white men going after a black woman and someone in a wheelchair.
Let’s look at Ms. Rice first. While I think Ms. Rice would make a poor choice for the State Department, I think the current campaign against her is foolish. Why? Because this is not a hill to die on. Yes, she did make a big flub when it came to Libya, but take a step back and look at how people are seeing this. When the average Joe is looking at this, there are probably a few folk who will see Senators McCain and Graham, two white men, and think that this has to be about race or because she is a woman. Nevermind that two GOP women Senators have questions. Nevermind that Republicans did endorse the nomination of Condi Rice to State. Fair or unfair, what people will see is two aging white men going after a black woman and they will make judgements based on what they see.
People in the wider culture already view conservatives with suspicion. Why on earth do you want to add fuel to the fire?
Now the treaty. I understand that some of the concerns posed by UN treaties. I also think they are a waste of time. But there again, no one is going to think in those terms. What they will see is a bunch of crazy, whackjobs who hate persons with disabilities.
A few weeks ago, Jim Geraghty wrote about why conservative ideas are popular, but conservative people aren’t:
So why are Republicans so much less popular than their ideas? A ubiquitous accusation from their Democratic rivals, echoed by an allied media, is that Republicans lack empathy to the point of displaying sheer meanness. With Obama running up huge margins among various demographics — African-Americans, Hispanics, women, young people — the argument is that the GOP increasingly represents an aging, white, bitter, and angry rump of the electorate, lashing out nastily at a world changing too fast for them.
Conservatives need to be more aware of how things look to others. Right now, the GOP is considered the party of bitter, white men.
There are times you need to fight a battle and times when you need to fall back and make plans. It’s way past time for the GOP to spend less time on things like UN Treaties and to focus on burnishing their image with gays, African Americans, women and a host of other groups. The image of being misanthropes is not a winning strategy. When we have improved our diversity image, then maybe we can go after people like Susan Rice with more integrity.
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