Mia Love and Susana Martinez: RNC 2012 Showcased Diversity on Stage, But Not Among the Crowd


Now that the Republican National Convention is over, I have to ask, where were the black people? Several black politicians had prominent speaking gigs at the convention. Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis and Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, Utah, spoke on Tuesday, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday. It's a sharp contrast to the makeup of the actual convention floor. David Bositis, a researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, found that only 2% of the convention delegates were black.

Comedian and author Baratunde Thurston made fun sport of on-site “#negrospotting” at the RNC and morphed it into a hashtag that built to a groundswell on Twitter. "It started as something sort of flippant, it was a funny phrase," Thurston said. "But then it was like, “Let's see what the number can get to. This party clearly has some trouble attracting minority voters and especially black voters. Not just Romney support, but the GOP membership." Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin took umbrage to the hashtag and tweeted out “SHAME SHAME SHAME on all you racist progs playing the #negrospotting game. Dear God, you people are sick.”

But Thurston’s observations were confirmed by those attending the convention. Drury Hoover, a GOP delegate from Hope, Ark., said she noticed the homogeneity of the convention crowd. "Somehow we need to attract all of the people in the country, not just what is apparently the Caucasians," she said, gesturing toward the crowd. "Because there are seemingly few of any what we would call minorities. Not many of you who are Oriental," she added, referring to a Huffington Post reporter, "not many blacks." Wiselet Rouzard, 25, a black Haitian-American delegate gives his party an “F” for minority outreach, saying in an interview that it should attract minority voters by promoting “liberty” and “constitutional rights.” Earl Phillip, a black North Carolina delegate said, "I walked out there, I looked around, and I couldn't count any black folks."

Raynard Jackson, a black GOP political consultant, wrote Tuesday on the RootDC Live blog that he is “embarrassed by the lack of diversity” at the convention and frustrated by his party’s empty promises. “When I came into the party there was a pipeline of other African Americans who worked for the Republican National Committee in the headquarters, staffers who worked for Reagan, etc. We are now some of the most experienced operatives in the game; many of us have our own firms or work for corporate America. Unfortunately, we are never consulted on party issues. Republicans have not given African Americans a reason to vote for Republicans or Romney.”

Mitt Romney is polling 0% of the black vote making attracting black voters a high priority for the party. When asked about Mitt Romney's lack of support among blacks and Latinos, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said "It's important to our party. If we're going to be a national party, we've got to reach out, and that means showing up in their neighborhoods. It's a tall order, but it can be done. We’ve never done well with those groups, but think about who this economic downturn has affected the most -- blacks, Hispanics, young people. These groups have been hit the hardest,” he said. “They may not show up and vote for our candidate, but I suggest to you that they won’t show up and vote for the president, either.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was not as optimistic. “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” he said. “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

If the Republican Party hopes to attract black voters they will have to begin by diversifying their leadership. Sophia Nelson, a black Republican woman, and former counsel to the GOP, is a vocal critic of the lack of diversity in the Republican Party. She said “the GOP has virtually no African Americans in any position of influence. This makes it difficult to deal with issues of concern to minorities.” Bositis said that only two members of the 165-member RNC are black and that none of the leaders of the committees responsible for drafting the GOP platform and adopting the convention rules are black. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus doesn’t appear to have any African Americans in significant decision making positions on his staff. The same can be said for the Senate and House campaign committees.

Democrat-turned-Republican Artur Davis  was asked what the GOP has to do to court minority voters who have historically flocked to Democratic candidates and causes. Davis replied "There's no way to get black votes on the cheap just by talking about social issues. I think Republicans have to realize that ultimately you have to make the case about conservatism, broader than just defending economic liberty."

Back at the convention Thurston’s #negrospotting total was 132 when Malkin responded with her tweet. Wednesday night the total had crept up to 149. When the convention closed Thursday night Thurston’s count was up to 237, with an estimated 60 of them actual GOP members. But BET has a tent there, which Thurston said might’ve inflated the numbers.