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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Why Is the Republican Party So White?

By August 31, 2012

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The GOP has faced a steady stream of criticism for its glaring lack of diversity since the Republican National Convention kicked off on Monday. While prominent minority political figures such as Condoleezza Rice, Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley all put in face time at the event, it was impossible to ignore that the faces in the convention crowd were overwhelmingly white. This observation prompted comedian Stephen Colbert to describe the convention thusly: "It is the Super Bowl of events that has way fewer black people."

Colbert also joked that he took a shot of Jack Daniels whenever he saw an old white man in the crowd. This drinking game left him hammered, given that just 2 percent of Republican delegates are black. Moreover, the Pew Research Center reports that 87 percent of Republicans are white. That's higher than the share of whites in the U.S. population overall. So, why has the GOP morphed into the Grand Ole' White Party?

It's not just because Barack Obama is the first black president and blacks have an undying loyalty to him. It's also because the GOP's message doesn't resonate with many people of color. Conservatives have not budged on issues such as undocumented immigration, opposing legislation such as the DREAM Act that aims to put undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children on the path to citizenship. These young people are in this country without papers through no fault of their own, but many conservatives have refused to acknowledge this, let alone take into consideration if such young people are college-bound, law-abiding and willing to serve in the military. Even Marco Rubio pointed out that Latinos view immigration as a personal issue, not a political one. "You're talking about their mother, their father, their brother, someone they love," he recently told Fox News Latino. "It's hard to make an economic argument to people who think you want to deport their grandmother."

It's also hard to reach black voters when many right-wingers have seemingly opposed President Obama because he's mixed-race, insinuating that the president isn't authentically American or Christian. These attacks that haven't been leveled at the 43 presidents who preceded him. If that weren't bad enough, prominent Republicans such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum made comments during the past year that implied that blacks don't value hard work and relish government handouts. Such comments alienate all the hardworking African Americans who not only provide for themselves and their families but also whose ancestors helped build this country into the great nation Republicans believe the United States to be today.

People of color are hardly losing sleep over the fact that the Republican Party is disproportionately white. But the GOP should be concerned that the party does not reflect how ethnically diverse the United States now is. Not only are Republicans whiter than Americans are generally, they're also older. As William J. Bennett, who served in both the Reagan and Bush administrations pointed out on CNN.com, "With the nation's changing demographics, Republicans can no longer rely on the South and Midwest to carry them to victory in 2012." Instead, the GOP must reach out to the diverse Americans in the purple and blue states. White Southerners and Midwesterners are no longer the definitive voice of American politics.


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