Reading through the Republican Party's new Pledge to America, I wasn't terribly surprised by any of their proposals. As The Daily Show's Jon Stewart aptly noted, much of it involves the same old ideas the GOP has been pushing for 30 years. In one particularly telling moment, Stewart shows House Republican Leader John Boehner using the exact same words 12 years ago that he used this week.
After a few years out of power, Republicans now vow to promote "traditional families," stop government spending, cut taxes, reduce the size of government and support our troops. It doesn't matter that they increased spending, doubled the national debt, squandered the Clinton surplus and led us into two credit card-financed wars when they controlled all three branches of government just a few years ago.
But the GOP's promises were no surprise.
What did surprise me is the total disregard for black people in the new Pledge to America. Usually, the Republicans do a decent job of at least pretending to care about people of color. At the 2004 Republican Convention, for example, the GOP put on a big show of racial diversity to overcome the perception that the party only represents white people. Not this time.
The GOP's new Pledge to America is a 45-page document filled with pictures, and there's not a single black person in any of the photos. Yes, in 2010, African Americans are still an afterthought to Republicans. Based on recent history, I was expecting to find at least one token black person buried in one of the photos of the document, but I was shocked to find a total blackout, if you will, of black people.
It's not like they ran out of space for photos. The booklet features 53 photographs, including beautiful patriotic images of Mount Rushmore, the U.S. Capitol dome, and a cowboy with a lasso. There's also photos of an old white couple on horses, a meat counter at a grocery store, senior citizens, soldiers, town hall meetings, and suburban streets lined with American flags. There's even an oversized picture of John Boehner and several photos of House Republican leaders. But I couldn't find a single black person in the entire document.
For a party with no black members of Congress, perhaps it's not surprising that the Republicans who vetted the document noticed nothing strange about the total absence of blacks in their glitzy new document. But in a country with an African American president and where blacks make up 12 percent of the population, the GOP's Pledge to America sends the message that Republicans just don't care about African Americans.
Yes, the Republicans picked a black party chairman to run the GOP, but his selection was as much an act of desperation as the selection of Sarah Palin to be John McCain's running mate in 2008. Since the Democrats had elected Barack Obama, the Republicans needed to find someone to make them look like they cared about black people. And since 18 million Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries, the Republicans needed someone like Palin to make them look like they cared about women's issues.
This week, when a group of white Republican leaders took off their suit coats and ties and stood on a platform outside a hardware store to release their new pledge, they wanted to send a message that they were not out of touch. But that group was just as white as the Pledge to America they released the same day.
We live in an increasingly diverse country with a black president and attorney general, a fast growing Hispanic population, and a newly emboldened LGBT community. But Republican candidates and officeholders are busy trying to turn back the clock.
Whether its Jan Brewer plotting to stop and search Latinos in Arizona, Rand Paul trying to roll back the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act or GOP leaders who want to change the Constitution's 14th Amendment that protected African Americans after slavery, Republican leaders are still living in the past. The Pledge To America does nothing to change that perception.
Is this the America they really want?
[To see the full Pledge to America document in PDF form, click on the following link: http://www.gop.gov/resources/library/documents/solutions/a-pledge-to-america.pdf]
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