Republicans and ultra-conservative commentators, particularly Limbaugh and Hannity, loooove attacking Democrats for hypocrisy on racism. They gleefully highlight that more Democrats won't vote for Obama because he's black than independents. Their mantra is "Democratic Party, take the log out of your own eye first."
Given the racial polarization in the Democratic primaries, it's a fair question. How CAN the Democratic Party lecture Republicans about not being a party of equal opportunity?
Pay close attention because the answer is crucial: the leadership.
Anyone can self-identify as a Democrat by voting in a Democrat primary. As a result, most so-called "members" of the Democratic Party never work for the party or donate to it. They can't be fired, their checks can't be returned, and nobody can stop them from saying, "YEEEHAWWW, Cletus, I'm a Democrat, and I ain't votin' for no black man!"
This is why, when you size up the soul of a party, you have to look at the leaders and those who vote for the leaders. The Democratic Party make a concerted effort to put people of other races into leadership roles, and they groom them to assume those larger roles later.
Here are the facts. In the U.S. Congress, there are 41 African-Americans and eight Asian-Americans. None are Republicans. There are twenty-nine Hispanic-Americans. Only five are Republican.
In fairness, the first African-American elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, Edward Brooke (1967-1979), was a Republican. But the state that elected him was, ironically, the one Republicans hate the most: Massachusetts. (You know what you call a Massachusetts Republican in the 49 other states? “Fellow Democrat”).
The Republican Party also had J.C. Watts, the four-term, African-American Oklahoma Congressman who left Congress to chair GOPAC, an organization created to “build a farm team of Republican officeholders who could run for congress or higher state offices.” What a great place to bring up some African-American talent with a supportive organization, right?
In 2007, Watts resigned from GOPAC, and here's what he said to the 2008 GOP presidential candidates:
“Republicans want to say we reach out. But what we do instead is 60 days before an election, we’ll spend some money on black radio and TV or buy an ad in Ebony and Jet and that’s our outreach. People read through that.”In our country's history, we've elected three black Governors -- Douglas Wilder, Deval Patrick, and David Patterson, and one Latino governor, Bill Richardson. All are Democrats.
But wait? A Republican president put Clarence Thomas on the United States Supreme Court. This is true. But he did so to fill a spot vacated by a sitting African-American, Thurgood Marshall, who was appointed by a Democrat, Lyndon Johnson. Be honest with yourself on this question. If another African-American had already filled Marshall's seat, would Thomas be on the court right now? You already know. So the GOP has not expanded African-American presence. Since Thomas filled "the African-American seat," it's been back to the white men brigade for the GOP.
Indiana's GOP does as poorly, and with less justification for that dismal result. In Indiana history, we’ve only had three African-Americans serve in statewide offices: Pam Carter (Attorney General), Dwayne Brown (Clerk of the Courts), and David Lewis (Clerk of the Courts, appointed). All Democrats.
When we call Indiana a "red" state, we mean that its core leans Republican, which, in turn, means it should dominate (and historically has dominated) down-ballot races, such as treasurer, auditor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, and previously, the clerk of the courts. At any time in its history, the Indiana GOP probably could have gotten an African-American elected to any of these offices had it made one the party's nominee. It never has.
You may say, "Come on, IPOPA. People can't just jump into these statewide roles. They have to prove themselves locally first." An excellent point...that further crushes the GOP's claim to care about African-Americans. In the Indiana General Assembly, there are eight African-American representatives and four African-American senators. All are Democrats.
What about cracking the ceiling on new offices? Indiana has elected only two African-American sheriffs, Oatess Archey and Frank Anderson. Both are Democrats. (In fairness, anyone who has read Archey's incredible biography, Going Over All the Hurdles, knows he's apolitical and just ran as a Democrat because that's where the ballot opportunity existed).
What about Indiana Courts? We have one African-American Justice on the Indiana Supreme Court -- Robert Rucker. He was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Evan Bayh and elevated to the high court by Frank Obannon. From 1964 to 1988, Republican governors could have put a black man or woman on the Court of Appeals. They did not. It took a Democrat to make that happen. There is currently one African-American judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals, Carr Darden. He was appointed to the Court in 1994 by Evan Bayh.
Some will say it is unfair to use judges in this analysis because there is a Judicial Nominating Committee that submits names to the governor. Yes, but the final call IS a governor's call, and if (s)he is so inclined, (s)he can say, “I’ll take the political hit from some Hoosier Bubbas to appoint an African-American.” In truth, this is where a party REALLY shows its stripes. Mitch Daniels has appointed three judges to the Indiana Court of Appeals. They are all white.
Republicans always throw out Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice, which is like white people talking about Rocky Marciano or Larry Bird anytime you mention the greats of boxing and basketball respectively. Even though I assure you that both Powell and Rice's memoirs will ultimately reveal how they were thrown under the bus for the benefit of a white VP and defense secretary, I'll let the GOP keep these two because the sum total of the evidence against them is still overwhelming.
While I encourage everyone to add to this list, my search for African-American Republicans holding even small county-wide offices has yielded three in the entire state of Indiana: Marion County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ayres (whom Governor Daniels has repeatedly passed over for nomination to the Court of Appeals), Marion County Superior Court Judge Reuben Hill, and Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill.
As judges seldom jump to other elected offices, Curtis Hill IS the entire GOP African-American bench. If I were Murray Clark, I would have already dispatched a 24-hour scandal/PR snafu prevention squad to watch over Hill. However, it might already be too late.
Prosecutor Hill already took a hit earlier this year for being a hothead when he bashed the Republican Mayor of Elkhart for taking officers away from a county drug interdiction unit to combat Elkhart’s rise in violent crime.
Hill's comment? "When it comes to fighting crime, Mayor Moore doesn't know his asphalt from a hole in the ground," Hill said. That's pretty funny and clever. BUT....the Elkhart Truth writes:
Hilarious. Devastating. A great sound bite. Just one small problem -- Moore's four years as president of the Elkhart Board of Public Safety. The prosecutor may consider him naive, but Moore knows a thing or two about the Elkhart police and crime-fighting.
Hill, for his part, let anger overwhelm his judgment. He publicly belittled the mayor of the county's largest city, damaging the relationship between the prosecutor's office and Elkhart.