The Republican Party leadership says that they have listened to the voters and want to make their party more reflective of the nation’s changing demographics. That’s the good news.
After its second consecutive loss to the Democrats in the presidential election—and suffering mounting losses among Latino voters and women—Republican officials announced that “better recruitment of minority and women candidates” would become a major focus in the upcoming 2014 election. We have to move the party "further and deeper into minority communities,” said Greg Walden, the new National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman.
The bad news? The new and improved GOP decided to hold their annual retreat at the grounds of a former slave plantation. Worse? The "Successful communication with minorities and women" strategy session was held in a room named "Burwell Plantation."
As GOP leadership prepared to meet on Friday in Virginia at the luxury Kingsmill Golf Resort, NBC News’ Luke Russert advanced the story on Thursday and noted the troublesome “optics”:
Friday’s panel, according to the published names, indicates it will include two Latino women, three White men and a Latino moderator. Yet the panel is not without an issue in optics; the room where the discussion will take place is called the “Burwell Plantation” room at the Kingsmill Resort.
In fact, the room is named after the Burwell Family, a wealthy family that owned many slaves in 18th century Southern Virginia. Records pertaining to the families owning of slaves is well-documented by the city of Williamsburg on their website.
But an “issue in optics”—that’s Beltway speak for “poor visuals” or being tone deaf— around race relations have always being a problem for the contemporary GOP. Actually … you could say it’s their specialty. The vilification of Latinos and undocumented workers. The voter ID campaign aimed at suppressing minority votes. Fraudulent claims around Black voters breaking election laws. And the hundreds of incidents of racist rhetoric, signs and protests (un)officially sanctioned by the GOP. So many more to choose from.
Now would be the time to make some changes. Women and minorities “will for the first time in the nation's history outnumber white male Democrats” in the House Democratic caucus,” reported CNN. Republican House caucus is almost 90 percent white men—and all of its leadership are white men.
“It’s a stark reality for a party desperate to appeal to women and minorities after both groups overwhelmingly rejected Republicans [in] the presidential election,” added the Huffington Post.
There are 41 Black Democrats in the House, 57 female Democrats, 20 female Republicans, 23 Latino Democrats, five Latino Republicans...and zero Black Republicans. Florida Tea Party extremist Allen West was (finally and thankfully) defeated in his re-election bid. South Carolina GOP Rep. Tim Scott was promoted to the Senate.
The absence of Black Republicans in the House translated into no Black representatives at Friday’s strategy session at the former plantation. But there are a number of Blacks on the Republican Party’s “plantation”—and Tim Scott has become the party’s most high-profile, go-to-Negro. Scott is the only Black in the Senate and that accomplishment has become public relations “boost to a party often criticized for its lack of diversity,” noted MSNBC.
Scott is also a Tea Party favorite and has proposed impeaching President Obama. Just in case you were wondering what were his “plantation” credentials.
Democratic strategists and officials have also journeyed to the Kingsmill Resort. The resort “hosted Obama and the Democrats days after the president's first inauguration”—and the President returned to Kingsmill last fall “to prepare for his second debate” against Mitt Romney. Sure, the Democrats have been to the same location to meet and hold strategy sessions. But there is a helluva difference in that the Democratic Party is incredibly diverse—oh and is also celebrating the second inauguration of the nation’s first Black president.
There are just too problems—too many “bad optics”—with the virtually all-White and all-male Republican Party leadership choosing the location of a former slave plantation to discuss its problems with women and minorities. Sorry, but one weekend retreat will not fix those problems.
Rod McCullom has written and produced for ABC News, NBC and FOX, and his writing has appeared in EBONY, The Advocate, OUT.com, The Los Angeles Times and many others. Read his award winning site Rod 2.0. Follow him on Twitter: @RodMcCullom