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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Republican Party snubs U.S. minorities

By David Servatius

This past month marked the 50-year anniversary of the forced integration of a group of black students into an all-white Arkansas high school.

The group, known as the Little Rock Nine, made history on that September day in 1957 and forever altered the fabric of our society.

While watching coverage of the various commemorations, it was impossible not to be moved by the rare example of courage that these teens offered. The calm dignity with which they carried themselves in the face of such all-consuming hatred should inspire us.

In contrast, the occasion also provided a stark and disturbing example of how drastically the Republican Party in this country has changed in a relatively short period of time. It was, after all, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower who ordered the integration of Central High School after the Supreme Court struck down the nation’s “separate but equal” laws.

That single action on his part created the Little Rock Nine and helped to set the modern civil rights movement in motion. The fiercest opposition at the time came from a now-extinct breed of racist southern Democrats.

Since then, however, the party that earnestly refers to itself as the Big Tent has devolved from a champion of emancipation and racial integration into a party that routinely and deliberately exacerbates racial tensions.

For the last 40 years, the Republican Party has actively shunned entire segments of society as a campaign strategy in order to maximize its share of the vote in another, whiter segment. It has engaged in a cynical electoral calculus that ultimately leaves us all separated and afraid of each other.

It might be a winning strategy, but it is certainly not a blueprint for a healthy society.

The divide-and-conquer mentality of the party was on full display as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain all passed on the opportunity to take part in a PBS-sponsored debate at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore. The event was intended to familiarize minority voters with the presidential candidates from a party that doesn’t traditionally pay that much attention to them, yet all of the major Republican candidates were no-shows due to self-described scheduling conflicts.

In fact, this year alone, the major Republican presidential contenders have skipped events sponsored by the National Urban League, Univision Television, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Simply a coincidence? No. These were each calculated public snubs. Each of them was deliberate — make no mistake about it.

As with so many of the ills of the modern Republican Party, it is a tactic that came from the presidency of Richard Nixon. He and his advisers routinely boasted of a new “Southern strategy” during his bid for the White House in the late ’60s. This strategy called for his campaign to inflame the anxieties that a large number of white Americans were feeling about the social upheaval caused by the civil rights movement, and then use that anxiety to generate support.

The ploy found new life in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and his useful, if imaginary, “Welfare Queen” threat. It reached a low point with the elder George Bush and his now-famous Willie Horton campaign ad in 1988.

Unfortunately it works over and over again because it is much easier to get people to act on their fears than it is to appeal to their hopes and their sense of decency.

But is it right? Just because you can do something, should you? Does anyone really think that this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind for our system of government?

If you don’t care about the votes of a group of people while you are campaigning, then it follows that you won’t care about the lives of those same people once you are governing. So it’s not hard to understand how a federal government dominated by the Republican Party would sit idly by as thousands of minority citizens suffered and died in the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.

If only someone, in honor of the Little Rock Nine and for the good of us all, could order the forced integration of the Republican Party into the minority populations of the country they claim to represent.

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