On Sunday, January 13, 2013 General Colin Powell was a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press. His statement that “there is a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the [Republican] party" sent the reactionary Right Wing into an expected fit.
Some like conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham called Powell a hypocrite whose success and popularity is due to the fact that he was appointed to several posts by Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and served as Secretary of State during the first term of George W. Bush.
But is there some truth to what former Secretary of State Powell stated about the GOP?
Let’s go back to July 2005 when then RNC Chairman Ken Merman apologized for GOP’s use of the Southern Strategy used by Nixon to exploit racial conflict for votes. Even Democratic President Lyndon Johnson has been quoted as saying “I think we have just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come” after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Of course Merman felt safe stating this long denied fact because George W. Bush had just been re-elected and Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court and Bush’s brain Karl Rove had declared that the GOP had obtained a Permanent Majority.
But then the Democratic wave of 2006 gave Democrats control of both Houses of Congress. And in 2008 a financial crisis and a weak and emotionally erratic Republican presidential candidate delivered the White House to Democrats for the first time in eight years, and Democrats increased their majorities in the House and Senate.
In 2010 Republicans made historic gains at local, state and the federal level and regained control of the House and trimmed Democrats’ advantage in the Senate fueled mainly by the momentum of the Tea Party whose origins, some claim are based upon the resentment that an African-American is occupying the White House.
During the 2012 Republican primary several presidential candidates gave what could be charitably called racially insensitive remarks. Cultural conservative warrior Rick Santorum stated to a mostly white audience “I don’t want to make blah (black?) people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money”. Not to be eclipsed, Newt Gingrich topped this foul statement by being a bit more explicit. A few days later during a speech in New Hampshire Newt Gingrich suggested that if he were invited to speak in front of the NAACP that he would talk about why“….blacks should demand jobs, not food stamps.” Eventual Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney suggested that illegal immigrants (most of these Hispanic and Latino) self-deport.
One wonders if Powell’s statement on Meet the Press was a long delayed response to former top Romney surrogate John Sununu’s suggestion that Powell’s endorsement of President Obama was based partly on racial solidarity even though Powell gave a well-articulated explanation for his supporting President Obama for re-election.
Several weeks after the election video surfaced of Romney claiming that President Obama won because he promised gifts to those who eventually voted for him. Later, John Sununu repeated this theme publicly but was a bit more blunt when he claimed that the Obama voters were dependent on government. Just to remind you the demographic breakdown of President Obama’s re-election coalition: 95% of blacks, 72% of Hispanics, 70% of Asians and 41% of whites.
Now that the GOP realizes that it has run out of white votes the GOP understands that its very survival depends on increasing its share of the minority vote.
Interestingly black conservative Crystal Wright claimed after the 2012 election that she was hired to develop a website to outreach to blacks during the fall of 2011, but by the spring of 2012 the Romney campaign and RNC had spiked this program. They also refused Ms. Wright’s suggestion that Republicans take their message to historically black universities in swing states like Virginia and North Carolina.
Given the GOP’s post- Civil Rights history of using racial animus to gain political advantage and their unwillingness to engage minority voters it’s very likely that the GOP will continue to be the party of white people and as the percentage of their portion of the electorate decreases the GOP will slip further and further into irrelevance.