One former RNC field staffer, who is Hispanic, described a culture of cynicism among his predominantly white colleagues when it came to minority outreach. He said that in his office, whenever they were notified of a new Republican outreach effort, they would pass around a Beanie Baby — which they had dubbed the "pander bear" — and make fun of the "tokenism."
"Any kind of racially specific campaign activity was often treated with skepticism by white staffers," he said.
He also recalled a Mitt Romney rally last year featuring Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, during which the staffer and his coworkers were tasked with finding Hispanics in the crowd who they could place on stage for the benefit of the TV cameras. It's a common, bipartisan practice in campaign politics — but one that his colleagues resented.
"My white peers were clearly not understanding what a powerful image a Hispanic senator standing in front of a sea of Hispanic Romney supporters would be," he said. "They grumbled about it, treated it like a chore. Not racist or anything like that, just didn't understand why they were doing it."
It's been a theme of some conservatives to claim not to see race--"race doesn't matter". Well, it demographically didn't matter if Republicans didn't get black or Hispanic votes and race historically mattered in "dog whistle" fashion--think Willie Horton, the "Hands" political ad, Reagan's discussion of "welfare queens" and other stoking of wite resentment and Lee Atwater's own famous admission regarding the "evolution" of using racial subtext. This is within living memory for a lot of people. It doesn't get cancelled out by pointing to Southern Democrats before 1964. When people see "Obama bucks" or "Obama phones" or Larry Kudlow going off on a culture of dependency (as Digby points out, "to food", because, you know, folks do have to eat.)--they should be very well able to see with their own eyes where that came from.
It strikes me that there is a boatload of denial in part because the language of race so recently, even currently, is sewn into the policy message. "Those people" want government hand-outs. "Those people" can't get their shit together. The economic issues we face as a country do affect us all, but if a party ignores people who have faced historic inequality or even demonizes them--what exactly do they expect? But maybe they could start with baby steps, like not using racial slurs or language that specifically otherizes or demonizes.
But it does have to start somewhere and be taken seriously.
Also, too, Mike Huckabee would be lousy at outreach to LGBT people. No, I mean seriously .