Minority outreach and crocodile tears

MINORITY OUTREACH AND CROCODILE TEARS…. The DNC this week released a new video message to Democrats from President Obama, in effect kicking off the party’s 2010 midterm efforts in earnest. In the video, the president emphasizes the importance of recapturing some of the successes of the 2008 cycle. “It will be up to each of you,” Obama said, “to make sure that the young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women, who powered our victory in 2008, stand together once again.”

At first blush, that didn’t seem especially controversial. But as it turns out, the comments have become the basis of a new Republican offensive.

The Washington Examiner, a conservative outlet, ran a front-page headline that read, “Obama disses white guys.” Noting the president’s comments, Rush Limbaugh told his audience, “This is the regime at its racist best.” The RNC pretended to be outraged, too, characterizing Obama’s remarks as making an appeal “based on class warfare and race.”

DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse told Ben Smith that Republicans are using a bizarre standard.

“Republicans are doing what they always do — doing what Michael Steele did in the power point he prepared that depicted the President as the joker — stoking fear because they don’t have one idea for how to move the country forward.

“Working to turn out voters who were new to the process in 2008 — the majority of which as a matter of fact were people of color and young people — is no more an appeal to race than Michael Steele saying he’s going to bring a “hip hop” makeover to the Republican Party or an “urban” feel to the GOP.”

Seems like a reasonable response to me. Soon after Michael Steele became RNC chairman, he emphasized his intentions about targeting specific demographics and constituencies. From February 2009:

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party’s principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

Hmm. When President Obama talks about outreach to younger voters and minority communities, it’s offensive. When RNC Chairman Michael Steele talks about the exact same thing, it’s “off the hook.”

I tried to find evidence of conservatives whining last year, concerned that Michael Steele was a “racist” who was “dissing white guys,” but I can’t find any complaints to that effect. I wonder why that is.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.