The biggest star at the RNC on Tuesday night may not be Ann Romney after all, based on the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction to another speaker: Mayor Mia Love from Utah.
Love is running against Democrat Jim Matheson; if elected, she will be the first black Republican woman ever to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Love’s campaign ad, which served as the introduction to the Mayor’s comments at the RNC, touches on central themes in her campaign—limited government, individual agency, and not being a “burden to society.” Whether she intended to do so or not, Love may have placed herself in the middle of one of the hottest debates happening in the GOP: the intersection(s) of race politics and social services like welfare.
And what, exactly, are Love’s stances on these topics?
On her website, Love lists her issues as fiscal discipline, limited government, and personal responsibility. Love proclaims, “Today, however, we find ourselves in a situation where roughly half of American citizens receive some form of financial assistance from the government. And, when only half of American citizens pay any federal income taxes, this is a situation that cannot continue without lasting damage to our American society.”
This platform has won her support from members of the Tea Party. Love has declared her intent to help repeal Obamacare and other “ineffective government programs” like education and return control of those services to the state.
However, she does not see this as a racialized issue. In the same interview, she states, “Wrangling over what to cut and eliminate is a relatively new process in Washington which threatens the liberal left agenda of expanding government and programs. Shouting racism has long been a weak tactic for attempting to shut down debate in the absence of a principled response.”
To Love, if anything is racist, it is the very social programs she aims to dismantle.
“I believe fiscal discipline, limited government and personal responsibility are vital to a stronger America.” Love continued. “Nowhere is this message more important than among the lawmakers who profit from promoting an unsustainable entitlement system rife with failed poverty programs that perpetuates the culture of government dependency and discourages self-reliance among black Americans.”
She expressed similar sentiments in her RNC speech, emphasizing that her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, taught her to never accept a handout.
While the Mayor tipped her hat to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. during her speech, she decried Obama, claiming that the President has been pitting Americans against each other on the bases of economic level, gender, and social status – though she made no mention of race.
Love has criticized Obama and Vice President Joe Biden before for creating racial division where she says there isn’t any. Love downplays her own race, emphasizing that voters should examine her fiscal record instead. (She has also said that if elected, she would try to dismantle the Congressional Black Caucus.) “We’re focused on color and race when we should be focused on pursuing the future and preserving this country” she said in an interview. “I don’t [talk about race a lot] because that doesn’t define who I am.”
While race may not define who Love is, it appears to matter to the Romney campaign. The Huffington Post and others speculate that Love was chosen to speak at the RNC in order to highlight the party’s diversity — on Sunday, Herman Cain mentioned her specifically as an “ABC”, American Black Conservative — and in order to appeal to both African-American and women voters. Love herself has said the same.
Given recent charges of racism leveled against Romney and Ryan, and her own warm reception at the RNC, Mia Love may find herself placed in the tricky situation of re-navigating both her own beliefs about the impact of welfare on African-American communities in order to support the GOP candidate.
Love is right to point out that as a congressional candidate, she should be evaluated based on her political track record rather than her race. She should nonetheless pay attention to instances where those issues may overlap—if not for her own sake, than for Romney’s.