Chip Saltsman Withdraws From RNC Race After 'Magic Negro,' 'Star Spanglish Banner' Stirs
UPDATE: Chip Saltsman, a former chief aide to GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, has withdrawn from the race to be chairman of the Republican National Committee just a day before the vote takes place.
Saltsman's bid was dealt a major blow several weeks ago when he was found to have distributed copies of a CD with the racially-inflammatory song "Barack the Magic Negro."
Today, immigration groups hammered on Saltsman again, drawing attention to the fact that the CD also includes a song titled "The Star Spanglish Banner." (A full report on that is below.)
Here's Saltsman's letter to supporters withdrawing from the race today:
Since November's election, I've had the remarkable opportunity to travel throughout thirty two states, share my vision for the future of our party, and listen to the advice of the nearly one hundred members who took the time to visit with me in their homes, their offices, their airports, and their coffee shops.
I've seen how the Clark County Republicans of Nevada are organizing online to defeat Harry Reid in 2010, as we defeated Tom Daschle in 2002.
I've heard how Republicans in the District of Columbia have expanded their membership simply by holding their meetings and spreading their message in communities that have long shared our values, but which have never felt welcome within our ranks.
I've witnessed how the hard work of Republican leadership in my home of Tennessee has given our state its first Republican General Assembly since 1869.
And I've met with Republicans in New England's blue states who are ready to plant our party's flag and prove that our coalition is broad enough, strong enough to compete everywhere and win anywhere.
But, while my travels make me confident in our party's future, I wanted you to be first to know that I have decided to withdraw my candidacy to become your next chairman.
Thank you for your passion for our party and for the principles that make it great. I hope that you won't hesitate to call on me as we rebuild our majority.
The race for the next chair of the Republican National Committee is being waged along lines that separate the party into factions: social conservatives vs. moderates; south vs. north, outside Washington vs. the insider crowd.
In this context, the Thursday report by Melissa Merz of NDN, that as part of his already controversial holiday CD, candidate Chip Saltsman included a song called "The Star Spanglish Banner," should be considered news. The song is a generally derisive take on Latino immigrants, composed by Paul Shanklin, the same musical-comedian who penned "Barack the Magic Negro."
(This YouTube video is not the version Saltsman distributed -- his was an audio cd.)
Saltsman has contended that the whole thing was meant as a good-humored, albeit ill-conceived, joke. But it hits at the core of what observers inside and out of the GOP see as a major party problem: their incredible failure to win Hispanic votes in the 2008 election.
Hispanics, of course, are the fastest growing constituency in the United States and a cold shoulder to them -- whether in the form of a musical parody or through immigration reform policy -- is not something the Republican Party can afford at this or any juncture. Ben Smith noted that the party is making inroads (however, superficial) among minority groups by the sole fact that two RNC chairman candidates are African-American. None, however, are Latino. And for people who follow the politics of immigration -- most prominently Simon Rosenberg of NDN -- this could be the type of thing that contributes to keeping the GOP in the minority for generations, not years.