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Raynard Jackson: Black and White in the GOP

I always find black Republican consultant Raynard Jackson‘s columns interesting (he sends them via email, so I have no link). His political views as a Republican may not be in complete alignment with mine as a progressive (or for that matter as a member of the LGBT community), but it’s fair to say that we agree on one thing — the Republican party, if it is to survive and thrive, needs a serious reality check when it comes to the browning of America.  It’s hard to hold Dem feet to the fire without a legitimate strong alternative, reality-based party, even if it is more moderate-to-conservative. That certainly isn’t today’s GOP, which clings and caters to its ignorant white Christianist fringe base for support. It’s why the Log Cabin Republicans don’t get any traction (of course some of the self-delusion going on in that org that its party and candidates at the national level are “inclusive” makes the situation worse).

As we saw in the last election cycle, the amount of race-baiting fomented, by the Base of the GOP (and its elected officials and party hacks for that matter) was disturbing. That the RNC could elect Michael Steele as window-dressing to try to paper over the party’s addiction to bigotry as an election strategy is a desperate sign that it wants to remain relevant, but they still just do not get it. Jackson, in his last op-ed, mulled whether Steele, who he knows well, will be given power to bring real change to the GOP. I personally don’t think so; the party is, to be charitable, immature when it comes to handling issues of this nature.

In Jackson’s latest column, reflecting on Black History Month, whether Steele and his party intend to take this moment in time to groom and attract blacks to be more than tokens, but brokers within the party’s power architecture.

As a political operative, I have spent many hours meeting with senators, congressmen, governors, and mayors from both parties.  My observation is that most Black elected officials that I have encountered have white chiefs of staff (the one who controls the office and in most cases the political operation also).

Should this matter? Does it make a difference?  Yes and no.

I think it is critically important that when Blacks become elected officials that they position and groom other Blacks to move up the political food chain.  If they don’t give Blacks a chance, in most cases, a white elected official isn’t going to do it.  So, we then get into this circular reasoning that goes like this:  “you are a great person, but you just don’t have the experience.”  They don’t have the experience because no one gives them the opportunity to gain it.  That’s why I am so amazed at the number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have white chiefs of staff, even though they represent a majority Black district.

Does this mean a white person can not do a great job? Not at all.  It means that Black elected officials should and must be more aware of the impact they can have on the next generation by providing opportunities to get requisite experience for bigger and better jobs.  

Many of my white Republican colleagues see the answer in simplistic terms of Black and white.  “We don’t see color,” according to them.  They are looking for the best qualified person.  In a perfect world, I would agree with them.  But how can you represent a district or state with a 25% Black population and not have any Blacks on your staff?  They are either color-blind or just blind to people of color.  I would be glad to refer them to an eye doctor.  These are the same ones who will tell a kid he doesn’t have the right experience, but yet not willing to give him the opportunity to get that experience.

More below the fold.

As a result of Jesse Jackson’s two runs for president (1984 & 1988) came people like Ron Brown, Ron Walters, Donna Brazile, Alexis Herman, etc.  Why are there not more Black chiefs of staffs working for member of the Black Caucus who will then make their own run for office?  Why should we expect whites to do for us what we are not willing to do for ourselves?

Contrast that with Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  Most were totally unaware that Dean named Leah Daughtry (a good friend of mine) to be his chief of staff.  This means a Black woman was actually running the DNC.  She was so good that Dean then named her CEO of the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee.  Again, she ran the show.  As a result of the relationships and skills she attained, she can now do pretty much anything within the political arena.  

This is why it is critically important for Blacks in positions of power and authority to make sure they create opportunities for others whenever they get a chance.  They have an obligation to do it.  Does this mean you discriminate against whites?  Of course not. They are not mutually exclusive goals.  

I am amazed when I meet with elected Republicans about these issues.  They all say we need to get more Blacks on congressional staffs and within the party structure, even while they have no Blacks on their staffs.  As much as former party chairman, Ken Mehlman, talked about this issue; he never had any Blacks on his personal staff.  

That’s why I am very curious to see how newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, fills his personal staff.  Where are the Jesse Jackson’s and Howard Dean’s of the Republican Party?

Steele has a chance to leave an imprint on the RNC and the rest of the party long after his tenure is complete.  Will he feel the burden of King to name a Black as his chief of staff, political director, press secretary, or general council?  And then empower them to exert influence on and within the party structure?  Will he open the floodgates for the next generation of consultants, campaign managers, speech writers, or fundraisers?

The answer is not so Black and white!

Oh my, this doesn’t bode well for Steele’s messaging:

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an ‘off the hook’ public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party’s principles to ‘urban-suburban hip-hop settings.’

I wonder if we’ll see Mitt Romney deliver more GOP street cred and bust out “Who Let the Dogs Out” again?


In semi-related news, since inclusion regarding LGBTs in the GOP is relevant as well, the LCRs will feature the appearance of John McCain’s former campaign manager and the Arizona senator’s daughter at its annual convention. (On Top):

Steve Schmidt is expected to speak on Friday, April 17, the second day of the group’s four-day Washington D.C. gathering.

The former Bush advisor and 2006 campaign manager for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will discuss McCain’s campaign strategy and the “Party’s path forward,” according to a Log Cabin blog post.

Also addressing the crowd will be Meghan McCain, Senator McCain’s daughter, who will discuss strategies to attract younger voters to the Republican Party.

…This year’s convention is themed “The Future of the GOP.” Speeches will touch on what went wrong during back-to-back election cycles that pushed the GOP into the minority – and how it will regain the majority.

Left to settle for mere gatherings and handshakes behind closed doors — and no results — the LCRs should really press, as Jackson is, for actual out representation in its national party.  

Unless something radical changes, under Steele’s leadership, the chances of an openly LGBT person being touted in leadership positions, given the state of his party, is about zero.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding