The parade of accomplished minority and women speakers at the Republican National Convention truly stood out, particularly because of the alleged Republican “war on women” theme and relentless accusations of Republican racism.
But sure enough, there was no shortage of critics showing dismissive regard toward GOP speakers...
...Proof is in what people do, and it was Republicans who put these people in office and at the convention podium. People should believe what they see, yet they continue to hear things like this from Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “I think we believe that women can see through that nice shiny packaging that the Republicans have been putting out there, through to what’s inside, which is really a disaster for women’s future, extreme policies.”
OK. Republican policies are fair game. But diminishing the women who were featured at the convention as “shiny packaging”? With language like that, just who is waging the “war on women”?
... The prize for insulting, obnoxious temerity goes to Los Angeles Times columnist David Horsey, who essentially accused Republicans of resorting to tokenism — and worse — at the convention.
“It would be easy to dismiss this as tokenism and window dressing — which, of course, it is — but there is something bigger behind it,” he writes. “Republicans truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that the best thing a poor Latino or an unemployed African American can do to better his or her condition is to vote for a party that intends to let rich people keep more of their money. Showing off all those non-Caucasian officeholders is a way of saying to skeptical minority voters, “These guys have chosen the Republican path and just look where it has gotten them!”
Tokenism, it seems, suggests unworthy people who were plucked off the street and put at the podium as props. But that simply wasn’t the case. Many of the minority and women speakers named above are accomplished leaders, and in some cases, rock stars in the Republican Party. They deserve to be featured, rather than dismissed as being somehow illegitimate or unworthy.
Here's my take: The difference between the parties on sexism and homophobia is that the Democrats rhetoric/ideology aspires towards an ideal (gender and orientation equality) that their actions fall short of. The GOP's actions, by contrast, seem to be more or less aligned with their general philosophies on those issues: some Republicans accept gays on pragmatic/libertarian grounds (though many don't), and women, while valued, seem to be seen by many in the party as supporters, not leaders.
This is borne out by statistics: In this Congress, female Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. In the last Congress, it was closer to 3 to 1. Of course, numbers aren't everything, but they seem to show that in the GOP, women are either not encouraged to seek political leadership roles, or not seen as having the same abilities/qualifications as men (Remember that Pat Boone article that said any time women were elected to office it was because there were no competent men around to do the job?)
This doesn't mean Republicans necessarily "hate" women, minorities or gays or that Democrats are incapable of being sexist, homophobic or prejudiced. However, the disparity does suggest that there are some real limiting factors keeping women from being as successful in party leadership-- and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this is true by, let's say a hundred-fold, for gays.
That doesn't mean that the speakers at the convention are deficient or unqualified-- but you'd have to be living under a rock to claim that tokenism-- or window dressing, or pandering, take your pick-- isn't at work here. It's at work with the Democrats, too, of course-- I'd say it's become a ubiquitous element of American politics these days. At conventions, on political ads, at debates, you always hear about these random people whose stories and faces are meant to exemplify an entire class of constituents to convince women, minorities, hunters, military supporters, teachers, small business owners, whoever, that this candidate, this party, really understand and care about you, YES, YOU! It's unabashed showmanship, and the fact that minorities were being paraded around to be seen and counted at the convention exemplifies the exact issue the GOP is trying to fight: the perception that it's the party of old white men. The existence of minorities within the party is a good thing, but until they become unremarkable, until their race or gender clearly isn't a major factor in picking them to speak at conventions, the GOP still has a lot of work to do. That's not the speakers' fault-- it's the party's.