Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Republicans give important positions to unqualified women and minorities or How Bobby Jindal became the GOP's "Great Brown Hope"

I always thought Republicans were being disingenuous in their arguments against affirmative action. I was sure that conservatives knew encouraging diversity and making a place for under-represented people does not equal handing goodies to the unqualified. They don't really think that; they are merely pandering to a base that needs a minority boogie man to blame for their personal failures and those of their party. But after watching Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's strange and tepid response to the President's speech last night, it hit me--that's exactly what they think. That's why when Republicans do diversity it just doesn't work.
  
"Tonight all Americans were proud eyewitnesses to history as an African-American president addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time." 
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the GOP's Senate leader,
 
In Republicans' constant effusiveness about Barack Obama as a historical figure--the first black president--I sense that they think it is his blackness that is most important to us all. That America has reached a place where a self-identified black man can be elected to lead the country is beautiful and meaningful and long overdue, but this is not why most people voted for Barack Obama. The reasons many of us support the President were on display last night: his thoughtfulness; his intelligence; his sense of fairness; his way of appealing to our best instincts, not our baser ones; his compassion for common people; his soaring oratory; his sense of hopefulness; his keen political instincts; his wonkishness; his willingness to balance the free market against the good of the people; his support for healthcare reform; his support for women's rights; his support for veterans and his commitment to bringing troops home from Iraq. Blackness doesn't even make the top 10, and I say that as an African American descendant of slaves.
 
But the GOP always gets this twisted.
 
With the passing of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, noted as a respected jurist, a former lawyer with a high rate of success arguing in front of the Supeme Court, former lead counsel of the NAACP...oh, and the first African American to sit on the nation's highest court, Papa Bush just happened to nominate another black man, Clarence Thomas, to take his place. Except this black man was a sexual harasser and as mediocre before taking the Supreme Court appointment as he would be after. See, the Republicans didn't understand that blackness isn't what distinguished Thurgood Marshall.
 
Fast forward 15 years to when Sen. Hillary Clinton, a graduate of Yale and Wellesley, galvanized people, particularly women, with her fierceness, passion for female equality and political acumen. She lost the Democratic presidential nomination in a hard-fought race. Still, she was the first woman to make it a hair's breadth from snagging the Dem's top spot. Meanwhile, the GOP just happened to add a woman, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to the Republican presidential ticket. Except this woman was routinely stymied by "gotcha" questions like "What newspapers do you read?" Unlike Clinton who ruled nearly all of her debates, batting away tough questions like pests, Palin--in interviews, on the stump and in debate-- was all winks, folksy charm and faux grrl power, with little grasp of national and international issues. See, the Republicans don't understand that femaleness isn't what distinguishes Hillary Clinton.
 
As we all know, running against Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama. Since his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, where he intoned that "we are not a nation of red states and blue states," people had been drawn to the Illinois public servant. During the long presidential campaign, the public's affinity with Obama grew, reaching cult of personality levels, but thankfully, with something to back up the adulation. In its endorsement of Barack Obama, The Chicago Sun-Times said:

We agree with Sen. Obama on many of the most pressing issues of the day.

He is right when he says America must be open to talking to its adversaries. He is right when he says America must lose the swagger abroad and repair its standing in the world. He is right when he says America must stand with Israel.

Sen. Obama is right in his prescriptions for the economy, though they need expansion and vetting. He is right in his compassionate but fiscally prudent plan -- unlike Sen. McCain's plan -- to help millions of homeowners avoid foreclosure.

And Sen. Obama is right on energy policy. We support his proposals to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by a host of means -- domestic drilling and nuclear energy, to be sure, but also an unprecedented national commitment to developing wind power, solar power and other forms of "clean" energy. Read more...

These were some of the concrete reasons that people chose Obama over McCain. It certainly doesn't hurt that he gives a mean speech, or that he is young and brown (biracial--the son of a Kenyan father and white mother). Yes, he looks like change. But it takes more than that to run a country. Self-identified blackness isn't what distinguishes Barack Obama.
 
You know where I'm going with this, don't you?
 
In the wake of Obamamania, non-white men just happened to begin getting some love from the Republican Party. Suddenly African-American Michael Steele was hot, hot, hot, and Asian-American Bobby Jindal was being heralded (out of nowhere) as the future of the party.
 
Of course, Steele has now become the first African American to chair the Republican National Committee. Curious, since he seems to be better at winning elections to helm his party than to serve the broader electorate. In 2002, Steele was selected as running mate for Maryland nominee for governor Robert Erhlich, and subsequently became  Lt. Governor of the state. He lost a 2006 bid for a Senate seat.
 
Since his election as RNC chair, Steele has made a fool of himself running around dropping urban slang like Lil Wayne. In an interview with the Washington Times he promised an "off the hook" and "hip hop" PR makeover for the GOP.
 
 
Sweet Jesus. I don't even need to say anything, do I?
 
And then there is Jindal. Watching him deliver that ill-written and utterly unstrategic speech in a Barney Fife-meets-Mr. Rogers drawling cadence, it occurred to me that I have no idea what Jindal has done to win a spot as the GOP's next big thing. To be sure, he is a smart man--a Rhodes Scholar even. But a lot of smart people aren't being considered for a 2012 presidential run. It takes more than being smart to get elected president--ask Al Gore and John Kerry. Jindal is surely lacking in presence, so there must be something else. I haven't found it yet, but there must be, unless...once again, the Republican Party is confused and they think the best way to combat a popular President "of color" is with another guy "of color". It wouldn't be the first time that Obama flummoxed conservatives this way. Remember when the GOP powers that be sent Alan "I'm mad as a hatter" Keyes to Illinois to run against Obama for the Senate. Alan frickin KEYES! Never mind how Keyes' regressive social beliefs would play in a state dominated by a major urban city. Obama was popular and black; Keyes is black, ergo...
 
Sigh...why does Republican diversity look so much like tokenism to me? The GOP constantly reduces leading lights on the left to their race and gender, and then seeks to duplicate their popularity by replicating what is least important about them. This just may be the Achilles heel that keeps conservatives out of power as modern society moves toward greater equality for all. A party that prefers token appointments to identifying, grooming and meaningfully supporting accomplished people, including women and people of color--a party that can only evaluate potential candidates based on how not-white or not-male they are--that's a party that surely deserves to spend some time in the wilderness.
 

11 comments:

Monica Roberts said...

Tami,
You are on target with that assessment of the GOP. They also have another problem in that when they DO somehow get qualified Black people who aren't raving homophobes, they ignore them.

A case in point was back in Houston when our longtime county treasurer died. The GOP had majority control of county court at the time so they got to make the appointment.

They had the chance to put Ken Burrough, the former Houston Oiler turned businessman and longtime GOP party member in that seat but bypassed him for a white Republican named Jack Cagle.

Professor Tracey said...

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Hate to add more drama for Sunday's show, but what is this bullshit - "An Apology From Brittany and Mandy"

http://digitalcolonialism.blogspot.com/

WTH?

MacDaddy said...

You nailed it, Sista. Gov. Palin is not particularly educated and RNC guy Steele is manipulative, has no charisma,allegedly criminal. He is being investigated for fraud and cronyism and could be trading cigarettes for food in prison real soon.

AJ Plaid said...

Quadruple fist-pump, Tami! As always, you nailed it, with this post on the GOP Token Problem.

My thing is I don't think is just a GOP problem. I think, for example, quite a few white people like to whip out the "I Gots teh Culored Frenz" defense when confronted with their racism. Mind you, the "friend" in question is someone the white person only says "hi" to in the office corridor--thus not qualifying as a "friend"--but that PoC qualifies as Teh Frenz that buffers/nullifies the statement calling out the white person's racism. Bringing out Thomas, Steele, and Jindal is just the GOP version of the same concept at work.

Anonymous said...

The Republican party just never bothered to do the things that would have positioned critical mass in terms of POC and non-male candidates for all offices.

You have to have a pipeline going back decades now before you'll come up with a Hillary Clinton or a Barbara Boxer or a Nancy Pelosi (I worked on her first campaign for congress in San Francisco thank you very much). Back then white gay men were all up in arms about Pelosi and called her "a party girl"-- just using the word "girl" to refer to a grown woman is fighting words with me! They supported a white gay guy for congress, but good old Nancy won. And guess how far she went...

No you need a pipeline and it's too little too late for Republicans.

I will say one thing, however, Justice Sandra O'Connor was great, and Reagan appointed her -- the FIRST woman to the Supreme Court. She really got what fairness was really all about.

I'm looking forward to the day when women are doing ALL the choosing of the cabinet posts, and there is this picture in the Oval Office of ALL women running a meeting! Then I'm really going to jump for joy. But right now, I think Obama is trying hard. I'll always be a diehard Hillary fan and a diehard radical feminist-- that means women come first and should run the entire U.S. government for awhile, but until that time, I'll smile seeing Pelosi, and Obama-- wow! And if we get ourselves out of this mess, double and triple wow.

Tami, this article should get you a CNN gig!!

ac said...

Preach Tami, preach. What you said and what anonymous said about the lack of a developed pipeline. They just don't get it and I predict they will be wondering in the wilderness for awhile. Hopefully long enough for the rest of us to pull this country back from the brink of destruction - jeez.

ac said...

Preach Tami, preach. What you said and what anonymous said about the lack of a developed pipeline. They just don't get it and I predict they will be wondering in the wilderness for awhile. Hopefully long enough for the rest of us to pull this country back from the brink of destruction - jeez.

Aaron + Alaine said...

The GOP is not entirely without highly qualified black folk in its ranks. Dr. Rice and Colin Powell are clearly tremendous persons of great accomplishment. J.C. Watts also comes to mind. So its not like the GOP has had no opportunities. It is indeed interesting how they suddenly seem to be thrusting forward their darker GOP brethren though and I agree that so far, Steele has been a bit of a rhetorical train wreck and his comments lacking in any level of strategic depth thus far (suggesting he would withhold primary funds from Spectre and the other turncoat republicans who voted for Porkulous for example.

Joseph Aldeguer said...

The reasons many of us support the President were on display last night: his thoughtfulness; his intelligence; his sense of fairness; his way of appealing to our best instincts, not our baser ones; his compassion for common people; his soaring oratory; his sense of hopefulness; his keen political instincts; his wonkishness; his willingness to balance the free market against the good of the people; his support for healthcare reform; his support for women's rights; his support for veterans and his commitment to bringing troops home from Iraq. Blackness doesn't even make the top 10, and I say that as an African American descendant of slaves.


-That is why my vote is for Obama. But many black americans this days after Obama proclaimed became bull headed.

Julia said...

Woo hoo! Go Tami!

Vérité Parlant said...

Excellent job laying it out. I call it wrapper politics, assuming we'll buy what's on the inside because what we see on the outside looks familiar. But I agree with you that the Republicans' problem is that's how they see the world--what's on the surface--and that's why they think we'll buy it what they're selling. It makes sense to them.

I had assumed Michael Steele might be qualified to be RNC chair, but that's probably because I wasn't impressed with any of the people in the running for the position. They all looked off to me. Otherwise, my thoughts on Steele ran the same as yours and many others who walk with their eyes open.

Jindal. Well, I'm down in Louisiana and I've seen him for what he is from the beginning. But that response to Obama's speech, good lord! He opened his mouth and revealed to the world he's a fool.

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