Op/Ed: I know first-hand: State GOP racist
(ARLINGTON - Decmber 13, 2008) - What do the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) and black people have in common? Absolutely nothing! Having served as the first and only African-American to be elected as national committeeman for the Young Republican s Federation of Virginia in the early 1990s, I have spent almost 20 years trying to educate state party leaders about how to get more black people involved, but to no avail. White Republicans too often think they know more about the black community than black people themselves. Their approach has always been to tell the black community what should be important to them versus asking what is important to us.
In all my years of involvement with the RPV, there never has been a black person in a position of power — with hiring or budget authority. I was much too young for the civil rights movement, but attending RPV meetings and functions gave me an idea of what it must have been like during that time. It was a mostly old white-male event circa the 1950s. It was so conservative that it was scary.
In case the RPV didn’t notice, the Democrats carried the state and added a new U.S senator during November’s election. White conservative voters are a shrinking part of the electorate. Republicans can get 100 percent of the conservative white vote, but that isn’t enough to win statewide or nationwide. So, what is the RPV’s plan to build a coalition that will make it competitive? Move further to the right!
So, let me make sure I understand this strategy. The party just lost the state to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964 and the state has changed from red to blue. Further, the Republicans just lost the other U.S. senate seat to a Democrat, lost control of the state Senate and have a seven-seat lead in the House of Delegates. Yet, they want to move even further to the right. This illogical thinking is what is driving people like me and others away from this party in droves.
What should the party do? The first thing Republicans should do is to get rid of the state GOP chairman, Jeff Frederick. During the campaign, he compared Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, saying, “They both have friends that bombed the Pentagon.” This, of course, is not true. Mr. Frederick has yet to apologize for his ignorant remarks. What is more surprising is that Mr. Frederick is only 33, an elected state legislator and of Latino descent. Not one person in leadership from RPV called him to task on this insidious comment. This is why I have ceased any involvement with the RPV. If I want to “pal around” with racists, I should have to go to a KKK meeting, not a RPV meeting. I know the RPV will trot out a black person or two to attempt to refute my position. But can the RPV explain the lack of any black people in significant positions on its headquarters staff? Can the RPV explain the lack of black people on the staffs of GOP delegates and senators?
As long as the RPV continues to inject race into its campaigns, requires conservative litmus tests for participation and ignores the changing demographics of the state, the RPV leadership is destined to continue losing seats and elections.
The country and Virginia will continue to get less white. The RPV is not prepared to accept this reality. Its future is to cling to its past.