Univision, the NAACP and the GOP's Devalued Voters
No doubt, the proliferation of presidential debates held by every interest group under the sun has become one of the more fatiguing aspects of the 2008 campaign. But by adding this week's Univision Hispanic presidential forum to a growing list of events they've skipped, the GOP White House hopefuls are sending a clear message as to which American voters the Republican Party does - and does not - value.
On Sunday, all but Joe Biden among the Democratic contenders came to South Florida to participate in a Spanish language Univision event in which the immigration issue was featured prominently. Both of which explain why all of the Republican candidates (with the exception of immigration reformer John McCain) refused to participate. The GOP no-shows, no doubt fearing a backlash from their own base over immigration and the de facto endorsement of the Spanish language, ensured the Republican Univision debate was scuttled.
As the Politico noted, this politics of hate may endear Giuliani, Romney et al to their party's hard right, but could produce devastating defeats for Republican candidate among Hispanic general election voters. Coming on the heels of the July snub by the major GOP hopefuls of the convention of National Council of La Raza, Republican prospects among Hispanic voters are quickly dimming. John Kerry carried only 53% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, but by 2006, Democrats won 69% support among the nation's 43 million Hispanics who went to the polls. As NCLR's Cecilia Munoz put it, "It's not just that they are not coming. It's that some of them are visibly insulting us."
Hispanics are just the latest group of Americans to get the cold shoulder from the Republican presidential wannabes. In July, the GOP hopefuls turned their back on the NAACP debate, with only Tom Tancredo (R-CO) standing alone amidst a stage of empty podiums. Just days after that debacle, the major Republican candidates signaled their desire to avoid the popular YouTube/CNN event then scheduled for September. (Content to duck questions from black Americans, Mitt Romney showed disdain for white ones as well, saying of the YouTube format "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman.") Facing overwhelmingly pressure from many of their own party faithful, the recalcitrant Republicans backed down and agreed to a rescheduled YouTube event now slated for November 28.
Interestingly, even the radical religious right is struggling to get all of its water carriers to participate in its events. On September 17, a who's who of the American Taliban will host the Values Voters Debate. Led by Pastor Rick Scarborough of Vision America, the force behind 2006's "War on Christians" Conference, the debate features Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, Judge Roy Moore and a host of others. Seeking support for its extremist Values Voters Contract, Scarborough warns, "If they care about our votes, they'll care about our values." Worried no doubt about a general election backlash from more moderate American voters, GOP pack leaders Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are staying away, attributing their discretion to scheduling conflicts.
And so it goes. Like the current Oval Office occupant, these Republicans apparently have no stomach for authentic, unscripted questions from the American people. Worse still, it may not be the questions, but which Americans are asking them.