Sunday, September 23, 2007

GOP's Augusta Golf Course Strategy On Race -- And Where Is Democratic Outrage?

(Commentary)First it was Univision.

Now it African-American commentator Tavis Smiley's "All American Forum" on Public Television this Thursday.

Leading Republican presidential candidates are declining to participate in the debate with heavy Hispanic and decidedly black influences.

THe Washington Post reports:

The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the "All American Presidential Forum" organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., all cited scheduling conflicts in their decisions to forgo the debate. All of the top Democratic contenders attended a similar event in June.

The message seems to be drawn straight from the playbook of the old membership policy at Augusta National Golf Course: Keep it white.

"Well it would be appear that way and that's unfortunate that any party would just write off or ignore huge section of our electorate," U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in response to Iowa Independent questions on the matter during a conference call this week. "I think we're seeing the same thing in the Hispanic sector."

Harkin said the GOP as a whole seems intent on ignoring African-American and Hispanic voters.

"It's like they just are writing off huge segments of the electorate," Harkin said.

There are two obvious questions. What are the Republicans thinking? And maybe even more perplexing is why aren't the Democrats pouncing all over this with the same furor the GOP showed in reaction to the admittedly childish and poorly timed ad on General David Petraeus -- or manufactured outrage over Hillary Clinton's slow-footedness to appear on FOX (which she did Sunday)? Why aren't the Democrats pointing out in ad after ad in the American Southwest (where the presidential election will be decided) that the GOP won't even appear on Univision, the biggest media medium in the Hispanic community?

Here's an idea for a powerful image ad: have two water fountains, side by side, one that says Democrats and one that says Republicans. Have black and Hispanic families, one by one, take sips from the fountain, and then have leading Democrats follow them. Then show a stream of all white suburban-looking folk, carrying bags from prominent stores the mall like Bed Bath & Beyond, go to the Republican water fountain. It is a fair metaphor to use here.

Writing in the American Prospect, Ezra Klein quotes one Democratic staffer as saying politics in many ways is shaping up as a battle between "normal" people and racists. It sure seems that way at times.

Some Republicans understand the damage being done here.

Here is the Washington Post again:

"We sound like we don't want immigration, we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former New York Rep. Jack Kemp. "What are we going to do, meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."

This story is crossposted at Iowa

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