Note: This story should not be confused with “The GOP Finally Getting Its Freak On,” which is a horse of a different color.
With apologies to Michael Steele and Alan Keyes.
Princella Smith is a young, female GOP congressional candidate in a predominantly Democratic district in Arkansas. And she’s black.
In addition to running Republican in a blue district, Smith is an underdog candidate in the GOP primary, running against Rick Crawford, who has already secured the endorsement of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Win or lose, Smith’s entry into the fray can help the GOP considerably, provided she isn’t painted by the media (or by herself) as a bizarre novelty candidate.
Republicans have long been tagged as the party of old white men (an impression exacerbated by recent events). While Republicans counter this by pointing to such figures as the aforementioned Keyes and Steele, neither the perennial joke candidate nor the GOP’s beleaguered chief are particularly charismatic.
Also, while African-Americans do not vote or think in as much of a bloc as the media (or professional race baiters like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Jeremiah Wright–all religious figures, interestingly enough) would have the public believe, it is true that the Republicans have done a lackluster job of reaching out to non-whites.
The vast majority of Americans are eager to put race behind them. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to heal America’s racial rifts and put an end to identity politics. The President and his closest advisors have been careful to downplay the racial element of Obama’s historic victory, but despite this the divide seems to have sharpened in many ways. This is no doubt due in part to the need for the aforementioned race baiters to reassert the racial disparity (because if there weren’t race problems, these guys wouldn’t get to appear on TV once a week or so with that practiced “Black Leadership” scowl).
Candidates like Smith, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and California’s Abel Maldonado can only help to diversify and extremely stultified Republican party. Diversity–through organic means and not via odious and racially belittling quotas–could help to destigmatize the Republican Party in non-white communities.
That may be well and good for the Republicans, but how does it benefit the nation as a whole? Not long ago the United States made itself believe that the election of a particular black person would once and for all snuff the uncomfortable question of race in politics.
It didn’t, and it’s probably too much to think that a congressional longshot could exorcise an entire nation’s demons. It might not be too much of a stretch, however, to hope that Smith’s candidacy might draw awareness to moderates and conservatives within the black community. If such moderates and conservatives were given voice by the media, it would obviate the ostensible need for a race-baiting reverend.