Optics of Iowa
Tuesday night the political world was all focused on the Iowa Caucuses. Everyone was watching to see if Santorum would defeat Romney. When all the votes were counted, Romney had won by a mere 8 votes. Romney was finally declared the winner around 2:30 am (east coast time). I stayed up to listen to all the candidates make their election night speeches. The speeches were unremarkable.
But, what was remarkable was what I observed during each candidate’s speech—the lack of diversity on the stage with each of the candidates.
During these 6 speeches (Romney, Santorum, Paul, Gingrich, Perry, and Bachman), there was not one Black or Latino on the stage with the candidates.
Before certain folks start accusing me of being too obsessed with “race;” let me be very clear. I am not obsessed with race; but neither am I blind to race.
Having worked many campaigns as a consultant, I am very aware of what happens on election night during the final speeches. Typically, family, friends, staffers, and volunteers join the candidate on stage as part of the backdrop for his victory or concession speech.
What I saw Tuesday night was quite disturbing. To sit through 6 speeches and not see 1 person of color was simply stunning to watch in the 21st century!
Are we to conclude, based on the optics of Iowa, that none of these campaigns had any minority family members, friends, staffers, or volunteers? In the immortal words of grandma, “your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear a damn thing you’re saying.”
Some of the comments from friends of mine in the Republican Party were quite interesting. They were quick to point out that Iowa (and New Hampshire) have very few minorities in their states; therefore I shouldn’t expect to see many minorities on stage with the candidate. Factually, this is true; so are they suggesting that minorities should only be involved and seen in campaigns when the state has a clearly defined population of Blacks and Latinos?
Are we, as minority political operatives, relegated to roles that only involve interacting with other minorities? In many respects, minority operatives are more valuable to a campaign than non-minorities.
Minority operatives, in most cases, are able to work within their respective communities, but also have the added skills of being able to function within the non-minority (white) community also.
Most white operatives have no clue about how to work within various minority communities. So, minority operatives are like having an athlete who can play several positions. If money is tight, the minority operative can bring more skill sets to bear, therefore has more value to bring to a campaign.
Don’t misunderstand, I am not making an either or argument; but a both and argument. Diversity is an asset to a campaign, not a political issue to be debated.
Republicans typically claim that race doesn’t or shouldn’t matter. But, for these same Republicans to justify the lack of diversity because of the overwhelmingly white makeup of a state is strange. Either race does or it doesn’t matter, but it can’t be both.
What I observed Tuesday evening was that none of the campaigns had any minority family members, friends, staffers, or volunteers. Are these candidates and their campaigns racists? Of course not. But, their total blindness to the lack of diversity on stage speaks volumes!
What Tuesday did show is that these campaigns are colorblind or simply blind to people of color. The optics of Iowa was so obvious that Stevie Wonder could have seen it.
If the Republican Party doesn’t begin to recognize the value of diversity, then winning the White House will be something they won’t see for a long time.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine, Freedom’s Journal Magazine, and U.S. Africa Magazine.