Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Blog

Convention Speaker Lineup aimed at Garnering Minority Votes

Tonight's program features the GOP's "rising stars", including seven new governors, capped off with major remarks by Ann Romney and New Jersey's Chris Christie.

The diverse lineup of GOP convention speakers stands in stark contrast to the sea of white faces in the crowd of 4,441 delegates, as well as to the Republican Party’s current base of support. Polling numbers show that the GOP’s support among minority voters is abysmal and party leaders have acknowledged that attracting support from Latino and African American voters is essential to the long-term survival of the party.

With primetime television coverage limited to a mere one hour each night, there has been significant commentary as to who will be giving the major addresses. While the number of minority speakers is small relative to the large total of convention speakers, approximately 50% of all prime-time speaking slots (between 9pm and 11pm) are devoted to Hispanic, African American, and other minority speakers. There is only one African American speaker outside of prime-time and no Hispanic speakers in the untelevised time slots. It is also worth noting that approximately 40% of the prime-time speakers are women, another demographic that Republicans are struggling to court.

Tonight, high profile speeches will be given by Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, who is Latino, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is of South Asian descent. A special profile and address will be given by Utah congressional candidate Mia Love, who is African American. Artur Davis, who famously switched party affiliations after failing to secure the Democratic nomination for Governor of Alabama in 2010, will also speak Tuesday night,. Many African American and Hispanic leaders have been highly critical of the GOP’s attempt to use to speaker lineup to attract minority voters. Davis was sharply rebuked in a letter by the congressional black caucus today for his “opportunism” in speaking at the convention and his new policy positions supporting voter ID laws. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the GOP speaker lineup “window dressing” and told reporters that the GOP "can't just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname" and expect Latinos to vote Republican.

Attention is also being given to the list of speakers with less prominent roles - as well as those who have not been invited to address the convention, including nomination contenders Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul.

There will be a "video tribute" to Ron Paul, but it remains to seen whether this will mollify his support base, which is seething over credential challenges that have "unseated" many of their delegates, rules changes that will make it more difficult to compete in 2016, and seating assignments that have left the Paul delegates in the convention hall's "nose-bleed section".

Former President George W. Bush will not be in attendance, but will be present via video hook-up. Former Vice-President Cheney wasn't invited; the only member of the Bush cabinet invited to speak is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

There will be benedictions offered by Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish clergy. A Sikh will also offer a prayer. No Muslim was invited.   

Deal Struck Over New Rules

The GOP leadership reached an agreement with disgruntled delegates and grassroots activists over proposed changes to convention rules. The dispute had threatened to escalate to a rare floor fight, which would have significantly derailed the show of unity the Romney campaign needs. The rule change that the Romney Campaign was initially pushing would have allowed a presidential campaign to disavow delegates sent to the national convention, a move opponents said would strip power from the states and grassroots in favor of the party elites.

The deal will instead force delegates to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, but will not allow the candidate to disavow undesirable delegates. This compromise might be enough to avoid the floor fight, but significant issues remain. The Texas delegation, who has led the opposition to the rules change, is now taking issue with a change that would allow party rules to be changed in between conventions. Opponents say that this could allow the party leadership to perform the power grab they intended with the original proposal slyly, at a later time. Also still at issue is whether the convention will seat the full Maine delegation, which is comprised mostly of Paul’s supporters.

While the Texas delegation and Ron Paul supporters have been leading the charge in opposing changes to party rules, the opposition also gained endorsements today from conservative grassroots firebrands such as Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Malkin. The compromise struck today made it less likely that a floor fight will take place, though it remains a distinct possibility. Regardless of whether the rule changes come to vote, there will undoubtedly be more fireworks on the issue.

Palestine and the GOP Platform

The GOP platform has yet to be ratified, but more details of its contents are continually emerging. This year’s GOP platform will be the party’s most conservative platform on foreign policy, fiscal, and social issues. Many observers have commented on the biting, combative language of the document. Party leaders have already shown recognition that such an extreme platform might not be brushed aside as party platforms usually are.  Speaker Boehner tried to downplay the platform’s importance today, saying:  “Have you ever met anybody who has read the party platform? I’ve not ever met anybody. It ought to be on one sheet of paper.”

Stories have also emerged about the fiery debates during the platform committee process. One of the fiercest battles was apparently fought over whether the platform should endorse a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Far and away, the most controversial part of the GOP's foreign-policy platform was the section tentatively titled, "Our Unequivocal Support for Israel," which stated that Republicans "envision two democratic states – Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine, living in peace and security" – language that is nearly identical to wording used in the party's 2008 platform.

This language prompted a flurry of criticism and amendments from delegates on the platform committee. Many complained that such language would “dictate the terms of peace to the Israeli government” and that it would “support the creation of a terror state.” Ultimately, the amendments were fended off by Jim Talent, a Mitt Romney surrogate and former Missouri senator, who pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly endorsed the two-state solution as Israeli government policy. Thus, language supporting a two-state solution only narrowly made it into the GOP platform after deliberations. 

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