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The whitest of white 2012 GOP Convention

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The whitest of white 2012 GOP Convention

The 2012 GOP convention organizers made much of the announcement that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Democratic Congressman Arthur Davis and Saratoga Springs, Utah Mayor Mia Love will be among the featured speakers at the convention.

They are supposedly the GOP’s loud public rebuke to the charge that it has snatched in the welcome mat to blacks. But the three black speakers notwithstanding, the 2012 GOP convention may be the whitest GOP convention in more than 40 years.

The 2008 convention was bad enough. Only 36 of the more than 2,300 delegates to that convention were black. That was a sharp contrast to the 167 black delegates at the 2004 convention. The plunge in numbers was a stark reversal of the GOP’s much touted pledge in 2000 to make the party a model of diversity.

In 2000, then GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush spurred the talk of GOP diversity. That year’s convention featured more black faces than at any time in living memory. The convention stage in Philadelphia pulsated with the sound of black soul and gospel groups; a popular black singer belted out a stirring rendition of the national anthem.

There were continual cutaway camera shots of black delegates wildly cheering and shouting at the speakers and activities. Colin Powell and Rice gave prominent speeches along with a few lesser known black speakers.

Bush seemed to back up his words about diversity with his pick of Powell and Rice, and a handful of other high profile blacks to top policy-making administration posts. Bush kept up the appearance of diversity in 2004, with a new twist. He actively courted the black evangelicals with a mix of bible-thumping fundamentalism, support of school choice, and anti-abortionist and anti-gay rights rhetoric.

He sweetened the pot for some of the top black evangelical ministers by steering an ample sum of Faith Based Initiative dollars into their coffers. This got Bush a mild bump up in the black vote in his 2004 presidential win in the must-win battleground states of Ohio and Florida. The increase in the black vote proved crucial in helping provide him just enough of his razor-thin margin in Ohio that beat Democratic rival John Kerry.

The GOP’s diversity tout couldn’t last. It bumped up hard against the  political contradiction in the party’s history and philosophy. The GOP is a party that promotes unabashed free enterprise, limited government, champions corporate and wealthy interests, and firmly opposes tough gun control restrictions, abortion, and non-traditional marriage.

It would not maintain its firm support base in the Deep South and the Heartland states among white rural, suburban, conservative blue collar and strongly male voters, if it wavered in defending its core political positions. The few high-profile black Republicans from Rice to Clarence Thomas, with the arguable exception of Powell, adhere to and fervently espouse the party’s hard line conservative attack points.

There is absolutely no room to deviate from them. The black Republicans are bankrolled, and feted by conservative think tanks and money groups. They are paraded on conservative talk shows as the black faces of the party. Former GOP Republican National Chairman Michael Steele had a momentary inkling that simply having black faces spout the stock conservative line would never attract more than a bare handful of blacks to the GOP.

On occasion he quipped that the GOP had to give blacks some reason to embrace the GOP. But Steele was already well on his way to becoming a casualty of the GOP’s steady march backward to its extreme right-wing stance on the issues. He was soon ousted.

With the departure of Steele, and the spectacular surge of the Tea Party, there was little doubt that the GOP’s 2012 convention would play hard to white conservatives, and that the delegates to the convention would reflect their views.

Romney’s lily white key staffers, his selection of Paul Ryan as his VP running mate and his carefully managed appearances before mostly white audiences were glaring signs that the GOP convention would be a convention dominated by the right.

The 2012 GOP platform was lifted almost whole from the Tea Party-aligned FreedomWork’s 12-point platform. Its main points are repeal the Affordable Care Act, deep slashes in government spending (not military spending), the downsize of federal employment, scrapping the Department of Education, and the gut of federal regulations on environment protection and the lax checks on financial, and corporate abuse.

The convention platform, which is designed to rouse the GOP’s conservative legions, would wreak even more misery on the black poor, elderly and students. This further guarantees that the nearly 2,300 delegates and more than 2,000 alternatives to the 2012 GOP convention will attend one of the whitest — if not the whitest — GOP convention in decades.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.