Friday, January 23, 2009

Race in the RNC Race

According to a recent article on, the race for Republican National Committee Chair is heating up - and race has become the number one issue.

"[Race is] where we got killed in the presidential [campaign]," said Illinois RNC Committeeman Pat Brady. As a result, the GOP is moving strongly in a direction to court back some minority voters.

Racial symbolism is where Republicans believed they lost in 2008 - succeeding with a dismal 4% of the black vote against an African-American Democrat. A black Chairman of the RNC, they hope, will help correct this.

The two big African-American contenders are former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele. The other four are trying hard to define themselves as minority-friendly leaders.

One strong RNC candidate - South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson - has even had to downplay his southern party-base credentials to appeal to RNC members concerned about racial symbolism.

So far he has come under some major fire.

"And more recently, his opponents have sought to damage his candidacy by circulating information about remarks he made at the University of South Carolina in 2003. In his comments at a seminar there, Dawson described his entry into politics as a reaction against 1960s-era school busing policies, telling students: 'Government reached into my life and grabbed me and shook me at the age of 15.'

"Dawson dismissed the latest wave of below-the-radar attacks as 'slash-and-burn politics.'"

Dawson supporters have tried to counter that with his actual African-American support. "There are three African-Americans on the national committee, and two of them are supporting Katon" according to one.

Will reshaping the Republican identity around racial symbolism reboost the GOP?


Not only will President Barack Obama be a much more visible political figure than the Chairman of the RNC, but the GOP has a history of antagonism to minority progress. In years past it has been mounting an ideology of social conservativism in response to desegregation and (more recently) immigration. In recent years it has also been the GOP's neo-conservative ideology hindering the alleviation of urban poverty.

If this will indeed be the direction of the Republican Party, then two things will happen. One, the party will quickly learn that symbolism is not what minority Americans are looking for in politics - they are looking for real progress. Two, the GOP will significantly turn off its traditional white populist base and (like they did in 2008 with immigration-reform-supportive Sen. John McCain) fail to bring these individuals to the polls.

We have already said the GOP is in serious trouble on the national scene. This current path will only accelerate their current and future difficulties.

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