Nevada Assemblyman Ira Hansen, recently elected speaker of the assembly's Republican caucus, stepped down this week. His resignation comes after he made some truly remarkable public comments about race. He claimed that the "relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what's best for his simple-minded darkies." Yes, he called black Americans "Negroes" and somehow thought sticking it to the Democrats would be accomplished by using the dated epithet "darkies."
His plan backfired, because it brought into clear focus a point that Democrats often make about Republican leadership: They're completely unaware of contemporary racial dynamics in the United States and don't care to learn. This is largely because black Americans aren't invited to the party. (Pardon the pun.)
First, let's take a look at the Congressional Black Caucus, which represents black Americans in the United States Congress. There are currently 44 members. Every last one is a Democrat. Since the organization was founded in 1971, only six black Republicans have even been elected to Congress at all. Alignment with the Democratic Party is not the result of exploitation by white leadership. Rather, the Democratic Party welcomes black Americans as leaders to represent their own communities. The Republican Party does not extend the same welcome.
In fact, the Republican Party has been attempting to literally erase black Americans from the voting map. Republicans have been simultaneously pushing voter-ID laws, which disproportionately affect racial minorities, and gerrymandering the districts. If you're wondering why Democrats are having such a hard time these days, it's partially because Republicans have succeeded in drawing lines straight through their constituencies. Guess whom these lines disproportionately affect? You got it: racial minorities.
Republicans also almost universally oppose actions designed to combat inequality. The most notable example is their rejection of affirmative action, a measure initially instituted to combat racial discrimination in employment. One bizarre moment found likely presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) suggesting that the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning discrimination in business was unconstitutional. He claimed "private ownership" should allow businesses to discriminate against black Americans.
While comments like Sen. Paul's may reflect a cold version of legal analysis that doesn't appropriately factor in race, the Republican response to race has been downright ugly in other instances. In 2009 Judge Keith Bardwell, a Republican justice in Louisiana, refused to officiate the marriage of an interracial couple. He reasoned that neither black nor white communities would "accept" their possible offspring. Did I mention this was 2009?
The racism present on the right extends beyond elected officials. The connection of news media to politics further highlights the divide. On the conservative, Republican-leaning Fox News, there is not one single-host show featuring a person with dark skin during the week. Only one black host appears at all during this time, a single member of the panel on The Five. Contrast that with the liberal, Democratic-leaning MSNBC. There is a single-host show featuring a black anchor during the morning, afternoon and primetime on every weekday. Two of these shows are hosted by black women. Michael Steele, the black ex-chairman of the Republican National Committee, is notably not with Fox News but serves as a paid contributor to MSNBC.
It's a widely known fact that white Americans will cease to make up a majority of the population by 2043. And non-white Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, which rightly frightens Republicans. But to claim that this dynamic exists because Democrats act as "master[s]" is clearly laughable.
Why would black Americans vote for a party that doesn't invite them, doesn't represent their needs and, in extreme cases, rejects their integration into basic contracts like civil marriage?
Rather than finding ways to open the door to racial minorities, the Republican Party is now lashing out at Democrats. In the process, they're only further alienating the very people they need to remain a serious force in the American political system.