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John Ridley

John Ridley

Posted: August 8, 2009 10:57 AM

I'm sure it's only a matter of time now before somebody cranks out a Freakonomics-esque pop culture tome on the seemingly accelerating phenomenon of elected Republican officials getting the quitsies. Arlen Specter and Sarah Palin and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

But Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martínez's just-announced resignation isn't just a variation on the "quit and ditch" theme. It's very probably the last nail in the Republican's "diversity" coffin.

Poorly made little pine box that it was.

Cuban-American Melquíades Rafael "Mel" Martínez was the sole (or lonely) Hispanic U.S. senator in the Republican Party. As former chair of the RNC he made outreach to Hispanics and minorities a priority. This to the consternation of some Republicans who were at odds with his stand on immigration. He didn't last long in that position. Less than a year.

And now, a day after breaking with all but eight of his fellow Republicans in voting to confirm Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor, Martínez is throwing in the towel.

It's very, very hard not to see the timing as a statement. Not just against the Republican's attempted debasement of Sotomayor, and by association the Hispanic narrative in America. Martínez's move, too, can been seen as another accomplished person of color -- following Colin Powell -- flipping a metaphorical middle finger at all the Republicans have devolved into: The party of the "angry white voter," as Paul Krugman says. A return to the "white voter strategy," writes Thomas Edsall. It is a party dominated by dangerously reactionary regressives whose fallback position is open hate and active violence. Frankly, those Tea Bag Party days seem like gentle times compared to the thuggery of the Health Care Town Hall meetings.

As an aside, the next time a Conservative asks how they can trust the government with health-care reform when it can't administer "cash for clunkers," ask them how we can trust conservatives with governance when they can't talk about health care reform without it turning into a UFC match?

So, then, after the tokenism of Sarah Palin as a feminist and Michael Steele as the new black American, the Republicans are left whiter than when Ron Reagan kicked off his campaign as the Republican nominee outside Philadelphia, MS talking about States' Rights.

As a swing voter, the utter implosion of the Republican Party is actually distressing. But I have hopes that one day maybe Mr. Powell, Mr. Martínez and I might have our own beer summit and plot our entry back into what is allegedly "the party of Lincoln."

For more perspective please visit That Minority Thing.com