I just returned from the Democratic National Convention where I learned a lesson in functioning while being exhausted. Charlotte was a wonderful host city, despite the multiple downpours, and the people I met were a happy, enthusiastic bunch. Some wore amazing hats as well. There were lots of clips, jokes and videos shared about both conventions, but there was one sent by a friend that both made me laugh and stuck with me:
DNC drinking game. See a person of color, drink! Wait, too drunk. See a white person, drink! Wait, STILL too drunk. #DIVERSITY!
This game certainly couldn’t be applied to the RNC in Tampa. While they had some diversity on the stage during their convention, when you looked at their audience, it looked nothing like the America we live in today. Let’s take a quick look at the stats.
Not surprisingly, the Democrats were very quick to talk about the diversity of their national delegates. Out of 5,556 total delegates, 50% were women, 27% were African American (an increase of 3% from 204) 13% were Latinos and 55 Arab Americans were delegates, a new record.
Stats were slightly more difficult to come by from the Republicans. Published reports said African Americans were 2.1% of delegates, which was an increase from the 1.6% of 2008. So, yay, I guess?
We all know that numbers are important but they don’t tell the entire story. I get annoyed when people talk about the diverse faces the GOP put up. As if that’s ALL they need to do. It’s not that it isn’t important to groom people of color for leadership and highlight them. That’s key, and it IS something the Democratic Party needs to improve on.
Look, I applaud the RNC for highlighting such newcomers as Gov. Martinez, Sen. Rubio and Bush holdover Condoleezza Rice. But what annoys me is that some republicans and political pundits seem to think that’s enough, as if we’re so naïve that we’ll be distracted by this shiny object over here and ignore the horrible policies that one party continues to espouse year after year. The media might be, given how much they covered this in Tampa, but I think most voters can see right thru that.
Demographic realities are staring the Republican party in the face. Even they acknowledge that this will be the last year that a Republican could run a national race mainly focused on white voters. But what are they actually going to about that. Having Mia Love on a house GOP ticket is great. Her story is compelling. Aside from the fact that she said she wants to tear down the CBC from the inside, (uh, why? What did they do to you?) the policies she supports are anathema to communities of color. They need to more than, as Jeb Bush said, “change their tone.” How you speak to people is important, but it’s what you’re saying to them that matters.
The conventions are all about show. They are basically a three day party to get your message out to your supporters, hopefully persuade some of the few remaining undecideds out there and make the final push into the debates. But they are also really the only time each party can display who they are and what they stand for to a national audience. I looked at the Republican convention and thought “I wish there were more people who looked like me in the audience.” Whereas at the Democratic convention, there was diversity around every corner.
So the next time you watch a political event and are about to make a comment on the diversity you see on the stage, do two things first. When the camera pans to the crowd, make a note of what you see. And then take a look at the policies they’re putting forth and ask yourself if this person or this party is truly looking out for your best interests.