Comments May Cost GOP Minority Votes

Erin Texeira, AP, August 28, 2006

One Republican senator described his house painter as a “little Guatemalan man.” Another called an Indian man a “macaca,” a type of monkey.

Just as the GOP is pushing for minority voters, the two recent gaffes have fed the perception among some blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans that Republicans are out of touch with the changing face of the nation.

“There is disconnect at some level,” said Michael K. Fauntroy, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. “The country is becoming browner and new voters, particularly new immigrant voters, don’t respond favorably to (offensive) comments.

“They may have already missed the boat on this.”

Reports surfaced last week that Sen. Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican, called his house painter a “nice little Guatemalan man” during a June speech. Burns, whose re-election campaign is pressing for tighter immigration controls, also suggested that the man might be an illegal immigrant. It turns out the worker is legal.

Earlier this month, George Allen, a Republican senator from Virginia, twice referred to an opponent’s volunteer using a term for a monkey, considered by some to be a racial slur. “Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here,” Allen said. “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”

Allen has since apologized to S.R. Sidarth, who was born in Virginia and is of Indian descent.

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“These misstatements are not reflections on the (Republican) party,” said Tara Wall, director of outreach communications for the Republican National Committee. “We’ve had a long-term commitment to inclusion.”

Wall said that since taking the helm in January 2005, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman has “stepped up” the party’s outreach to minorities. That effort has included holding nearly 100 town hall meetings with black, Latino and Asian-American groups, she said.

The party also is strongly pushing the candidacies of black Republicans in upcoming elections: Ken Blackwell for governor of Ohio, Michael Steele for Senate in Maryland and Lynn Swann for governor of Pennsylvania.

This summer, Bush spoke at the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the first time in his presidency. The crowd cheered when he said many blacks don’t trust Republicans.

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Some say that’s already happening. In 2004, 46 percent of Hispanic men, for instance, backed Bush compared to 36 percent in 2000, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. While only 11 percent of blacks voted for Bush in 2004, it still was up from 2000.

But there’s a long way to go. Associated Press-Ipsos polls from June to August show that 81 percent of blacks, 62 percent of Hispanics and 69 percent of Asian-Americans identify with Democrats over Republicans and independents.

Outreach to minorities can ring hollow if it’s not backed by strong policies, said Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science and Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California, Irvine. “Even a candidate that says something offensive, if he then came out and advocated a path to citizenship (for illegal immigrants), then I think voters would pay more attention to that,” he said.

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Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic strategist, agreed. “Republicans are sending mixed messages to people of color, in particular African-Americans and Hispanics. On one hand they would like us to come into the big tent. But once you get in you will see the unwelcome mat remains on the inside.”


Washington—As the start of the fall campaign looms and House Democrats remain within realistic reach of reclaiming the majority, party leaders are beginning to explore the delicate question of what happens if they win.

Rusty from being out of power for 12 years, Democrats are rethinking how they should parcel out coveted committee chairmanships and the other plums that would come with House control at a time when the party’s potential chairmen are increasingly being portrayed by Republicans as liberal extremists.

In fund-raising appeals, on the Internet and in stump speeches, Republicans raise the specter of a Judiciary Committee headed by Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, a banking committee steered by Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a tax-writing committee led by Charles B. Rangel of New York, and an energy panel under the leadership of John D. Dingell of Michigan.

Democrats and others call it a tired scare tactic with more than a whiff of bigotry because Republicans often point to gay and black Democrats who would lead committees. But faced with the attacks and pent-up ambitions of rank-and-file lawmakers, Democratic leaders are hinting they might abandon party tradition and award sought-after slots not solely on the basis of seniority, but instead follow the Republican lead of also weighing such factors as legislative record, diversity and work for the good of the party.

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At the moment, party rules do not specifically require committee chairmanships to be awarded on the basis of seniority. But in practice that is the way Democrats have done business, except in rare circumstances like in 1985 when Representative Les Aspin of Wisconsin led a revolt against Representative Melvin Price of Illinois, the aging chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Under the direction of Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, chairman of the party caucus, a committee headed by Representative Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts is giving the internal party handbook a thorough review. Lawmakers are studying whether changes are required in the seniority system and rules governing general committee seats and related issues like ethics and term limits.

Democrats can only hope they have to deal with the infighting that would follow should they topple the Republicans. But Mr. Capuano, who heads the Democratic Committee on Organization, Study and Review, acknowledged that a takeover would confront them with thorny issues.

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Since winning the majority in 1994, Republicans have not hesitated to pass over senior lawmakers for chairmanships in favor of members more in tune with the leadership’s ideology or more assertive in fund-raising than their rivals.

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Democrats anticipate they could face something of a generational clash in the event of a takeover. All of the lawmakers in line to lead major committees were in Congress before Republicans gained control in the 1994 elections, and some have bided their time in the minority for one more chance at the gavel.

But most of the Democratic caucus has been elected since 1994, and there will be some Young Turks who will argue that the old-line Democrats had their chance and that power should be shared. Already there have been calls to retain the term limits that Republicans imposed on their committee chairmen.

Party officials say they expect most of their senior representatives on major committees to prevail with little difficulty. They point to Mr. Rangel, a popular figure who has been traveling the country on behalf of House candidates, as one lawmaker who would be installed as chairman with enthusiasm.

Other positions are more problematic. At the Intelligence Committee, Representative Alcee L. Hastings of Florida, who was removed from the federal bench in the 1980’s, is in line to take over, although that decision would be the responsibility of Ms. Pelosi and could prove explosive.

And some Democrats are nervous about the prospect of a Judiciary Committee led by Mr. Conyers, who has raised the prospect of impeaching President Bush, a notion that Ms. Pelosi has sought to bat down.

Senior party officials doubt that many—if any—of the Democratic chairmen in waiting would be leapfrogged if Democrats prevail in the November elections. But just mentioning the possibility can help motivate senior Democrats to work overtime in the critical remaining months of the campaigns to help cement their committee positions.

“They are all conscientious, solid, hard-working members,” said former Representative Martin Frost, now a part-time political commentator. “The thing about these members that should frighten Republicans is that they will all know what to do the minute they take over.”

There is no dispute that a Democratic majority would bring a shift in ideology at the helm of most major committees. The potential chairmen have generally been persistent critics of the administration and are champing at the bit to turn the Congressional spotlight on administration practices and Republican policy.

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GOP Warnings Of Democratic House Takeover: “More Than A Whiff Of Bigotry”

http://www.timeswatch.org/articles/2006/20060828123304.aspx

Clay Waters, TimesWatch.org, August 28, 2006

Carl Hulse: “Democrats and others call it a tired scare tactic with more than a whiff of bigotry because Republicans often point to gay and black Democrats who would lead committees.” And don’t call them liberal, either.

Congressional reporter Carl Hulse gives sustenance to Democratic takeover dreams in Saturday’s “Issues of Leadership Await If Democrats Retake House.”

“Rusty from being out of power for 12 years, Democrats are rethinking how they should parcel out coveted committee chairmanships and the other plums that would come with House control at a time when the party’s potential chairmen are increasingly being portrayed by Republicans as liberal extremists.”

As Lyford Beverage notes on Newsbusters, there’s little doubt that the “potential chairmen” are in fact liberal.

“In fund-raising appeals, on the Internet and in stump speeches, Republicans raise the specter of a Judiciary Committee headed by Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, a banking committee steered by Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a tax-writing committee led by Charles B. Rangel of New York, and an energy panel under the leadership of John D. Dingell of Michigan.”

“Democrats and others call it a tired scare tactic with more than a whiff of bigotry because Republicans often point to gay and black Democrats who would lead committees. But faced with the attacks and pent-up ambitions of rank-and-file lawmakers, Democratic leaders are hinting they might abandon party tradition and award sought-after slots not solely on the basis of seniority, but instead follow the Republican lead of also weighing such factors as legislative record, diversity and work for the good of the party.”

Hulse also fails to name of any of the “Democrats and others” that see the Republican move as a “scare tactic” with a “whiff of bigotry.” Perhaps Conyers (a conspiracist who wants Bush impeached), Frank, Rangel and Dingell (who last we checked is neither black nor gay) are simply four of the most prominent Democrats set to take over chairmanships if the party wins the House this fall.

Just don’t call them liberals. Of the 14 potential House committee chairmen listed in an accompanying graphic, not a single potential Democratic chairman is labeled as a liberal. This in a crowd that includes “sharp-tongued and quick-witted” Barney Frank, Charles Rangel, John Dingell, Henry Waxman and John Conyers (“perhaps the most controversial potential chairman”). The only label is a conservative one, applied to Collin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the “moderates and conservatives” in the Blue Dog Democrats.

By contrast, here’s how the Times characterized the incoming Republican majority back on November 10, 1994, after the GOP shocked everyone by winning both the House and Senate. Reporter David Rosenbaum didn’t stint on the labels:

“Not all the Republicans who were elected on Tuesday or who are in line for positions of authority in Congress are arch conservatives. For instance, Representative Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who won election to the Senate, is a strong advocate of abortion rights and takes moderate positions on most other social issues . . .The retirement of Senators John C. Danforth of Missouri and Dave Durenberger of Minnesota is significant in this regard not only because they are moderates who were replaced by conservatives, but also because their seats on the important Finance Committee will doubtless be filled by Republicans more conservative than they . . .The Finance Committee’s counterpart in the House, the Ways and Means Committee, will also shift to the right. The new chairman, Bill Archer of Texas, is a strong advocate of low taxes and sharp cuts in welfare spending.”

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