CPAC attracts a certain type of crowd. No, not necessarily just the rich, though One Percenters are a bit over-represented at probably 50% of the audience. Not just gun nuts either, though Wayne LaPierre had no problem filling a large ballroom at the 2014 CPAC convention. No, the crowd CPAC attracts is overwhelmingly…white.
In the minutes prior to Wayne LaPierre’s brought a stirring round of applause upon saying “Freedom is having all the handguns, shotguns and rifles we want,” the ballroom in which he said it was oddly silent and empty. A few minutes before LaPierre took the stage to represent Blackwater and Beretta, those waiting in the room caught the tail end of one of the GOP’s most important panels.
The panel on minority outreach.
Tweeted by John Hudak, this is what the ballroom looked like during this discussion.
The empty room was, itself, the subject of some discussion during the panel, as political strategist Jason Roe suggested that Democrats draw larger minority crowds because they have more “goodies” to offer. Robert Woodson, another GOP strategist, responded.
“It’s not goodies. It bothers me that people assume that lower-income respond to gifts —food stamps or things that will be given to them. Nobody wants to be dependent so let’s assume that people want a hand up and not a hand down.”
Well said, Bob. But that’s not exactly the thing that should be bothering you here. What SHOULD be bothering you is that in a discussion about “minority outreach,” the subject of government handouts and “goodies” should come up AT ALL.
Woodson says it’s because they don’t have a “ground game” in minority areas.
And this is what lay at the echoing heart of the GOP’s empty room: It’s not an outright maliciousness toward minorities. It’s the frame of reference itself. As this panel shows, the GOP can’t even talk about minorities without characterizing them as “the other guys,” “the people who need a hand up,” “the disadvantaged ones.” For certain, minorities are at a disadvantage in the United States, but even on its best day the GOP cannot help itself from referring to said minorities as wards of a higher and wiser power. That higher and wiser power, of course, being people who aren’t minorities.
That’s true whether conservatives are talking about people of other genders or other races. Even at its most benevolent, the GOP cannot hide its desire to rule those outside of its own club, rather than to govern all clubs equally. And you can bet even the hardest core conservatives haven’t missed the message that that message is failing…nor did they miss the irony of the fact that the room only began filling up as the outreach panel ran over its time, and Wayne LaPierre fans came for early seats. Hudak:
“The GOP grassroots and activist groups are perfectly right to cheer the words of LaPierre. But they should be cheering the words of Ed Gillespie and Elroy Sailor even louder. The diversity panel is the path to the party being successful and making inroads into traditionally Democratic groups. If the GOP wants to see the Democratic Party struggle to elect a president, they should win 20% of the African American Vote or 50% of the Latino vote. Adding the votes of a few more gun rights supporters won’t make the difference in 2016 and 2020 and beyond.
If the attendance pictured above reflects the party’s future approach to diversity outreach, it is probably safe to say that for some the given future, the White House will be a solid hue of deep blue.”
Here’s the CSPAN video of the panel. Note in the beginning that the speaker is talking to a room that is virtually empty: