Tuesday, March 3, 2009

GOP’s ‘Colorful’ Poster Boys

PerryScope By Perry Diaz

In an attempt to add “color” and re-energize its ranks, the Republican National Committee (RNC) elected Michael Steele, an African-American, as the new Chairman. They also asked Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who is of Asian Indian descent, to respond to President Barack Obama’s address to a special joint session of Congress last February 24, 2009.

Obviously, the motivation behind the election of Steele as the first African-American RNC Chairman was to counter the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president. But Obama was elected by 52.92% of approximately 131 million voters while Steele was elected by 168 RNC members.

As soon as Steele was installed, he immediately laid out plans to reach out to African-American and Latino voters in all 50 states. He vowed that his outreach program will be “permanent” and not just election-time activity as what had happened in past campaigns.

In a recent interview with a national news magazine, Steele said that he wanted to “better explain the GOP's conservative philosophy of optimism, opportunity, and economic growth to minority voters and make folks understand that ‘we'll walk that walk with them’.” However, he conceded that “it may be tough sledding, but we're going to get on the sled.”

Well, it seems to me that he isn’t bold enough to do the task and doesn’t have the “optimism” that he claims is part of the “conservative philosophy” that he’s trying hard to sell to minority voters. But no matter how Steele retools “conservative philosophy,” minority voters aren’t going to buy that because they perceive it as pro-business. And how could he peddle Republicanism to Latinos who perceive Republicans as anti-immigrant; therefore, anti-Latino.

The battle for Obama’s stimulus package last month proved once again that the Republican Party is out of touch with the American people’s problems -- particularly the poor and the middle-class. Obama’s populist stimulus package, among other things, centered on creating jobs and providing tax cuts for those who needed it most, which is 95% of those earning less than $250,000 a year.

The Republicans in Congress insisted that Obama’s stimulus package should provide tax breaks to businesses and the wealthy, a philosophy -- known as Trickle Down Economics or Reaganomics -- launched by Ronald Reagan in 1980. But Reaganomics hardly trickled down to the people. Instead, it became the tool of big businesses and their greedy CEOs who plundered the economy for corporate and personal gain. The result was the financial meltdown that occurred in the waning days of George W. Bush’s administration.

After losing the White House to Obama, the Republicans retrenched in Congress hoping that they could hold some bargaining chips. Obama tried to work with the Republicans in a bipartisan fashion. But even after getting some concessions, the House Republicans voted unanimously against Obama’s stimulus package. But the number of Republicans in the House had dwindled so much that it made them completely irrelevant and inutile.

The Republicans’ last redoubt was in the U.S. Senate where the Democrats hold a majority but short of the 60 required to stop a filibuster. But the Republicans’ only chance of defeating the stimulus package was shattered when three Republican senators broke ranks with their party and voted with the Democrats; thus, preventing a filibuster and ensuring its passage.

After signing the bill into law, Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to explain how the stimulus package would work. As soon as his speech was over, Jindal went on national television to deliver the Republican Party’s blistering attack against Obama’s stimulus package.

Jindal called the congressional Democrats “irresponsible” for passing the $787 billion stimulus package which the Republicans had criticized as excessive and wasteful. He claimed that giving tax breaks and assistance to businesses -- an allusion to Reaganomics -- would work best for the nation’s economic recovery. In my opinion, that’s like selling a dead horse to pull the wagon. He should know that Reaganomics died when George W. Bush’s presidency came to an end.

But the question that popped in my mind was: Why did the Republicans select Jindal as their spokesman in attacking Obama’s stimulus package? Why not the Senate or House Republican leader? Or was it because Jindal was presumed to be “teflonized” from attacks by minorities -- particularly African-Americans -- who might be alienated if the Republican spokesman was white? With Jindal as the spokesman -- or “hatchet man” -- the Republican congressional leaders could conveniently wash their hands in the event of a backlash from the community.

But whether it projected the 37 year-old Jindal as a bad guy or not, his “15 minutes” on TV prime time gave him priceless exposure that he could use to promote his ambition to run for president in 2012. But will he have the gumption to wage war against a sitting president? Well, he’s probably praying day and night that Obama will fail and thus become another one-term president like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

And kicking by his side for the next four years is Steele whom he could unleash as his “attack dog” just like what Sarah Palin did for John McCain during the 2008 elections. With Steele doing the attacks, nobody could accuse him of racism since he and Obama are both African-Americans.

With Jindal and Steele as poster boys for the “new” Republican Party, it would certainly add color to an otherwise anemic party that had bled to near-death after the Obama electoral landslide last November. And where would Sarah Palin fit in the picture? She would probably be making her next move pretty soon.