Romney campaign surrogate John Sununu suggested recently that President Obama needs to “learn how to be an American.”

Keep America America

September 7, 2012

Tuesday marked the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, and the most striking difference between the Republicans and Democrats in their conventions was apparent: diversity.

The night’s two main speakers, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and First Lady Michelle Obama, are Hispanic and African-American, two groups noticeably absent from the Republican convention.

Contrast those two speakers with last Tuesday at the Republican National Convention: Ann Romney, who’s husband famously stood next to a group of African-American teenagers and started singing “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and Chris Christie, who defended Romney when he made a joke seemingly directed at the race-fueled debate about President Obama’s birth certificate.

And people wonder why Mitt Romney is polling at 0 percent among African Americans?

Hispanics are another challenge for the Republicans. The biggest stars they featured at their convention were Cuban Americans like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz. Cuban Americans are a smaller political group upset with Obama for softening his policies on Cuba. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the most prominent Mexican American at the convention, wasn’t given a prime-time speaking slot.

According to Fox News, only 10 percent of delegates at the RNC were minorities, as opposed to 40 percent at the DNC. The lack of African Americans and Hispanics could be a problem for the GOP in large states where these minorities have a major presence: Florida (40 percent), Texas (50 percent), California (45 percent) and New York (35 percent). These are the four states with the most electoral votes, and three of them voted for Obama in the last election.

The loss of minorities also hurts the Republican Party, as the youth vote will continue to skew toward minorities with the majority of babies no longer being white in America. The Democratic share of the youth vote has increased each election since exit polling began in 1972, reaching a peak of 66 percent in the last election. The voters of our generation are increasingly minorities, and they are voting for Democrats more and more.

Is it any wonder minorities are disenfranchised with the RNC? Republican convention delegates last week threw peanuts at a black camerawoman and called her an animal. Stephen Colbert’s interns last week caught Fox News showing the same black delegate over and over again to simulate diversity. Even Glenn Beck recently conceded that the Tea Party’s opposition to Obama is tied to his race.

There was a major scandal last year when Mitt Romney began using the phrase “Keep America America” in campaign speeches. The phrase is very similar to a former Ku Klux Klan rallying cry, “Keep America American.” Romney denied any connection to the KKK slogan, just like he denied any connection to the birther controversy, despite using it to generate applause at rallies. Contrast this to Sen. John McCain, who corrected a racist at a rally in 2008 and fought off boos of Obama in his concession speech.

The “Keep America America” line sounds similar to the statement a campaign surrogate made on a Romney conference call, saying Obama needs to “learn how to be an American.” If we have a minority president who doesn’t know how to be an American, how can we “Keep America America”?

Put together these statements with the lack of diversity in the Republican Party, and a very troubling image begins to reveal itself. The Republican Party has to act fast to distance itself from racist rhetoric and seriously include minorities, lest it becomes the party of old white men even more then it is now.

If young people really want to “Keep America America,” they should support diversity, one of the things that makes this country great. It appears they are, which spells bad news for today’s Republican party.

Photo: Former New Hampshire governor and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu delivers a speech during the christening ceremony for the newest Lewis and Clark class ship, the USNS Alan Shepard.

(Photo credit: Patrick M. Kearney, U.S. Navy)

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared as an opinion column in The Maneater on September 7, 2012.

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