The GOP: Party of the rich, white, and powerful

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By Rick Howell

If you watched any of the Republican National Convention, you had to notice the sea of white faces that stared back at you from the hall. It was very difficult to spot a delegate of color.

You couldn’t help but notice, too, that most of those white people appeared to be rather well-heeled, let’s say. Well paid; well off; living the Republican dream.

It shouldn’t be necessary to remind people that the GOP is today what it’s always been: the party of the rich and the privileged, and also a party that remains nearly all white.

The party’s nominee for president, John McCain, owns seven houses, even though he recently couldn’t remember that. His wife, Cindy McCain, is the heiress to a beer company fortune. She certainly doesn’t have to work another day in her life, does she?

Now, I’ll grant you that given a choice most people would choose to be as rich as many Republicans are, and no one should begrudge those who got their wealth by hard work and, yes, good luck. But the kind of lifestyle lived by those who were on the receiving end of the great majority of George W. Bush’s tax cuts is just a fantasy for most people.

The “average American,” - and there is such a person - works hard to simply put food on the table, pay all the required bills, and hope to be able to send the kids to college. It’s always been the Democratic Party, not Republicans, who have worked the most on behalf of those kinds of people.

How can John McCain, the owner of seven homes, know what it’s like for working class people? Remember, he wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He doesn’t support putting an end to the obscenity of insurance companies running health care. He seems far more in touch with his own wealthy class than he does with you or me.

His party is also still unable to attract citizens who represent the increasingly diverse population of this country. No black Republican has been elected as governor, senator, or member of the U.S. House in the last six years.

Michael Steele, who was asked to speak at the convention for all the obvious reasons, is one of the few high-profile African-Americans in the GOP. Steele gave an interview later to the Washington Post and expressed his own frustration at the party’s inability to look like America.

Don’t they get it? Don’t they realize that by the middle of this century, white people will be the new racial minority? Can’t they see voting trends in all the recent elections that demonstrate how blacks and Hispanics are the foundation for Democratic victories everywhere, including Virginia?

But when your one idea is that “government is bad,” and that people - regardless of their circumstances - need only to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” in order to get as rich as John McCain, you see why people who have suffered economically shouldn’t trust Republicans.

Blacks know, too, that the GOP and most American conservatives were hostile to the civil rights movement. Barry Goldwater opposed the U.S. Civil Rights Act in 1964, calling it “government interference.” Conservatives still rant against affirmative action (despite the career of Clarence Thomas), and have routinely opposed the renewal of the historic Voting Rights Act.

Barack Obama, the first African-American presidential nominee of a major party, has insisted that this campaign isn’t about race. It isn’t. But the whiteness of the GOP and its policies that favor the rich should be reason enough for working class Americans to vote Democrat.

Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.