Missing Selma: The Final Death of GOP Minority Outreach

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday in Selma, and it appears that after withering criticism and embarrassment, the GOP has decided at the last minute that maybe one of their leaders should actually bother to show up.

But the near miss won’t do much to obscure the message: the GOP has essentially abandoned its minority outreach, at least to African-American voters.

Facing demographic reality after their devastating defeat in 2012, Republicans issued a report saying they needed to consider policy changes to court minority voters. That olive branch lasted a few weeks before their base and its mouthpieces on AM radio urgently reminded them that bigotry is a core Republican value and would only be dismissed at the peril of any politician that didn’t toe the Tea Party line.

Now the party finds itself shutting down Homeland Security to protest the President’s mild executive order on immigration and almost ignoring the Selma anniversary entirely. The minority outreach program is not just dead: it’s a public embarrassment and heaping ruin.

That fact underscores certain disturbing realities for the future. Republicans will double down on the white vote, attempting to gain over 75% of it to put their anti-Hillary into the White House. They will continue to try to disempower cities in favor of surrounding suburbs and rural areas.

And they will continue to try to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible–one of the reasons why the Selma memorial is so problematic for them. Republicans are actively trying to remove as many minority voters as possible from the eligible pool, and have no interest in being reminded of Dr. King’s struggle to achieve the end of Jim Crow and true voting rights for African-Americans.

The GOP has made it abundantly clear that things are going to get much uglier before they get better. Their base won’t have it any other way.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.