The Republicans don’t want to discuss black issues.
UPDATE, September 25, 2007: The New York Times has now gone populist and offers most of its content for free. So I can link to this Bob Herbert editorial on this subject.
So now that Tavis Smiley has organized an “All-American Presidential Forum” at traditionally black Morgan State College in Baltimore, it seems that all of the Republican candidates for President have scheduling conflicts that will prevent them from attending. This after all but one of them (McCain) declined to appear for a debate on the Hispanic Univision TV network last month. McCain didn’t debate with himself — they postponed the event, but it looks like the Republicans don’t want to talk about issues of interest to Hispanic voters, either.
I was going to try to demonstrate that this makes them racist bigots. I mean, it sure does look like they are choosing to ignore segments of the population and that their choice is based on race. And of course they may actually be racist bigots. They are, after all, moral descendants of the Dixiecrats of the 1940’s — segregationist Southern Democrats who have been switching to the Republican party ever since they couldn’t get Strom Thurmond elected President in 1948. And you know what they say — if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there’s a good chance it’s a duck. But I have to admit that this news doesn’t prove anything.
Instead, it speaks to the sorry state of national politics in this country, wherein rabid extremists are the ones who nominate the candidates. The Republicans who would be President have to contend with gun-totin’ good ol’ boys from the National Rifle Association, hyper-pious anti-abortionists, seal-the-border anti-immigrationists, evolution-is-just-a-theory Christian fundamentalists and stay-the-course war supporters, to name a few wacky groups. These people are the grass roots of their party, and in the months before the national convention they are the ones who always frame the debate, by virtue of their zealotry and the fact that every single one of them will vote in the primaries. They simply cannot be ignored, even though their positions are so far out of the mainstream that their “ideal” candidate, if one even exists, could never win a majority of the popular vote.
So Rudy and Mitt and John and Fred are pandering to these groups by abandoning their previous moderate positions on gun control, gay marriage, the war in Iraq, national health care, etc., and trying to out-crazy each other with far-right positions on these issues. If common sense is the first casualty of primary season, the second one must be ethnic groups who aren’t going to vote for you anyway so why bother to let them ask questions or witness your debates on subjects that will directly affect them in the event you get elected?
Nobody’s going to vote for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 anyway, and that landslide will be led by America’s blacks and Hispanics. Still, if you’re the candidate, you know that after the primaries and the convention you’re going to need those votes. So why are you dissing them now, when all they want is to see you in person, find out what you have to say and get some sense of you as a person?
Anyway, they’re probably not racists, even if they are quacking a little.