Back when J.C. Watts was still in Congress as a Republican back-bencher from Oklahoma, his attendance at the Republican National Convention meant getting more national TV face time in less than a week than he typically got in the four years since the previous RNC. The cameras were ordered to play up the GOP’s alleged "Big Tent" inclusiveness, as opposed to its Southern Strategy reality, by constantly zooming in on him as he sat in his convention seat, as if to say "See? See? We are so inclusive! We aren’t racist!"
That was then, this is now.
This year, the year of the Lily-White Convention in a country that is increasingly diverse, the Republicans didn’t have J.C. Watts’ face to zoom in on with their cameras. In fact, they didn’t have many black faces to zoom in on at all:
Only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor are black, the lowest number since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies began tracking diversity at political conventions 40 years ago. Each night, the overwhelmingly white audience watches a series of white politicians step to the lectern — a visual reminder that no black Republican has served as a governor, U.S. senator or U.S. House member in the past six years.
This year, the Republicans, instead of doing the quadrennial move to the middle to appear as "compassionate conservatives" with a "humble foreign policy" (remember that spiel of Bush’s from 2000?), are running scared. How do we know this? Because they are catering to their base — the pick of corrupt archconservative Fundie favorite Sarah Palin over the infinitely-more-qualified Elizabeth Dole or Kay Bailey Hutchison or Susan Collins shows that — and their base constituents aren’t fans of inclusivity. (The Fundies love Sarah Palin so much that many of them are literally praying to God that McCain is elected and then dies in office, just so Palin can be president.)
In fact, as they face an African-American man running as the Democrats’ presidential nominee, they’re going beyond using words like "Muslim" as a code word for "black" and now are openly using language even the most generous observers can’t explain away:
Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.
Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.
"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity," Westmoreland said.
Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”
Now remember, Westmoreland is from Georgia. He knows full well the import of the word he used:
Political consultant David Gergen, who has worked in both Republican and Democratic White Houses, said on ABC’s "This Week" that “As a native of the south, I can tell you, when you see this Charlton Heston ad, ‘The One,’ that’s code for, ‘He’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place.’ Everybody gets that who is from a Southern background.”
They’re not even pretending anyone. The mask of inclusivity has shattered.