The day – Analysis: an assessment of racism? Not for many GOP leaders
NEW YORK (AP) – While the nation is in the midst of a historic account of racism, most Republican Party leaders are not participating.
On the same day last week that a jury convicted the policeman who killed George Floyd, Republicans in Washington focused much of their energy on convicting the oldest black woman in Congress. In the days that followed, former President Donald Trump attacked what he called the “racist rants” of basketball icon LeBron James. And some of Trump’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill are considering forming a new group that originally planned to defend “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
Beyond mere rhetoric, lawmakers in Republican states are pushing forward new voting restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color and resist legislation designed to prevent police brutality.
These movements reflect a stark political reality: As America diversifies, the Republican Party continues to be led almost entirely by whites, especially men, who cater to a predominantly white base. And despite fierce criticism from civil rights leaders and growing concern from business leaders who are traditional allies, many Republicans see no problem.
“It is unfortunate that more members of the Republican Party are unwilling to stand up for what I would define as creating a more just and humane system,” Martin Luther King III told The Associated Press. “It makes you wonder if they really care.”
Yet the reality of modern American political coalitions is increasingly complex. While reliable demographics on voting patterns in last year’s election are still emerging, leaders of both parties believe Trump has attracted more support from Latinos – and possibly black men. – than its more conventional Republican predecessors.
“Republicans are making progress,” said Ari Fleischer, a White House aide to George W. Bush.
Fleischer helped draft the 2013 Republican National Committee internal report which determined that the survival of the GOP depended on the adoption of more inclusive messages and policies to attract the growing universe of non-white voters.
“Despite Trump’s rhetoric and the blow to Trump that he was racist, he increased the vote among black African Americans, he increased the vote among Hispanic Americans,” Fleischer said. “He did as we asked.”
Continued Republican resistance to African-American voting and policing priorities could threaten any modest progress the party has made with voters of color. But more than that, the GOP could further alienate the bulk of the suburban voters – many of whom are white – who have strongly turned away from Trump’s party.
Leading Republicans insist that systemic racism does not exist in America. But in a tacit acknowledgment that something needs to change, Republicans chose South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only black senator in the GOP and one of three black Republicans in Congress, to provide a national response to the president’s speech. Joe Biden at a joint session of Congress Wednesday.
Overall, 261 Republicans sit in Congress, and fewer than two dozen are people of color. Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday celebrated the handful of non-white freshmen elected last fall – there were nine – in response to former President George’s recent description W. Bush of the modern “nativist” GOP.
“This party is growing to reflect America,” McCarthy said on “Fox News Sunday”.
But in the same interview, he was again forced to denounce the plans of Trump allies such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., And Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., To form an “L” caucus ‘America First’ which intended to promote “exclusively Anglo-Saxon political traditions,” according to an internal planning document. After the plans were made public, Greene distanced herself from the “Anglo-Saxon” language and blamed the staff.
Look no further for evidence of the GOP’s entrenched position than in Minnesota, where a jury last week convicted former cop Derek Chauvin of murder after being filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes.
The state, which is an epicenter of the nation’s racial calculation, leans Democratic. Trump lost Minnesota by 7 percentage points in 2020 – after losing just 2 percentage points four years earlier – even after spending much of the fall warning suburban voters about violent Black Lives Matter protesters .
But there are few signs of urgency in the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate, which so far has resisted Democrat-backed new legislation to address racial justice and police accountability. Both sides backed a proposal last summer that banned police strangling, among other things.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, the most powerful elected Republican in the state, declined to commit to the new legislative overhaul in an interview.
“We are looking at it. We looked at it. But we are a careful deliberative body, ”he said in an interview.
Meanwhile, the number of people of color killed by police continues to rise.
Since the guilty verdict was read last Tuesday, at least six people have been fatally shot by officers across the U.S. This figure does not include Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old African American killed by police in the United States. Minnesota during a traffic stop and put to rest. two days after the Chauvin verdict.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, described inaction as unacceptable when asked about his party’s general lack of urgency to address police reform or other African priorities. American.
“It is evident that more work is needed to ensure that opportunities are fully and fairly available to all Americans,” Pawlenty told the AP. “Republicans have a responsibility to advance this goal and can do so in a manner consistent with our principles. “
This can happen in Washington, where police reform legislation once stuck on Capitol Hill could slowly evolve into a bipartisan consensus. Republican leaders, including Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have spoken little publicly about the Chauvin verdict, but McConnell has asked Scott to continue leading the effort in talks with the Democrats.
The passage remains uncertain, however.
The Democratic-led House has now twice approved what it calls the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which would be the most significant federal policing changes ordered in a generation. . Senate Republicans have so far resisted the proposal.
Meanwhile, the RNC released a new round of talking points for surrogates three days after the Chauvin verdict encouraging Republicans to focus on the “dangerous anti-police rhetoric” of Representative Maxine Waters, D-Calif., And a handful of black and Latin congressional women. who make up “the squad”.
The document specifically encourages Republicans to note that four members of the brigade, which includes Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., called for the defunding or dismantling of the police, but spent thousands of dollars on their own. “Private security services”. The talking points also underline Waters’ comments earlier in the week, encouraging supporters “to become more confrontational.”
“Maxine Waters encourages violence and encourages confrontation at a time when our law enforcement agencies are working to keep communities safe,” the RNC document said.
Waters made his comments to a Minnesota crowd ahead of Chauvin’s verdict. When asked what should happen if Chauvin was not convicted of murder, she replied, “We have to stay on the streets, we have to be more active, we have to become more confrontational.”
Hours before the verdict, House Republicans attempted but failed to censor Waters, who has been in Congress for three decades.
On the defensive, Republicans are trying to score political points by noting that Democrats, not Republicans, passed Jim Crow’s racist laws half a century ago before a major political realignment.
“I, for one, am sick and tired of Democrats. They have to apologize for their story, ”Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Told Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures.
EDITOR’S NOTE – National political writer Steve Peoples has covered presidential politics for The Associated Press since 2011.