Post Classifieds

First Republican debate skips race issues

By Charles D. Ellison/Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune
On August 25, 2015

GOP candidates focus their attention on immigration, defunding Planned Parenthood.
Credit: MSNBC

For Black voters paying attention to the recent Republican debate in Cleveland, most notable was the convenient absence of big ticket race-related and racism-triggered issues that have kept a politically polarized nation steadily transfixed since the death of Michael Brown a year ago.

Fox News moderators pretty much stayed laser focused on what Republican base voters wanted: a check-the-box conversation full of probes into GOP candidate views on border security, wars abroad, abortion and other issues.

Surprisingly, a next-day released Gravis Marketing Poll showed the soft rise of retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, who surged three points ahead of Donald Trump as a view favorite.

Carson’s ascendance as something of a post-debate focus group favorite puts a strangely ironic Black face on a debate highly defined by heavy strokes of White voter anxiety and disillusionment.

While Fox News and the Republican National Committee had no real political obligation to the Black viewers to address any issues they had prioritized as of late, other hot button topics such as immigration and ISIL were immersed in all sorts of racially singed undertones.

Few expressed shock that Fox News moderators would spend much time on anything even remotely related to recent front and center issues on police misconduct and Voting Rights. Despite years of active GOP pushing on voter ID and other electoral suppression laws, as if voter fraud should be a top policy issue, there was nary a mention or whisper about it during the debate  and on the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act passage.

The topic of immigration took up enormous oxygen in the room, its jagged racial edges a thorny litmus test for candidates who needed tough-talking, border-closing street cred for a red-meat conservative audience.

That debate participants committed as much time as they did to “illegals” and their rhetorical portraits of violent “sanctuary cities” perhaps offered as much a glimpse into White voter fear of rapid demographic changes as a clear sense of what issues will dominate the Republican primaries from now till Super Tuesday next year.

“The fact is … many killings, murders, crime, drugs are pouring across the border, [there’s] money going out and the drugs coming in. [W]e need … to build a wall, we need to keep illegals out,” said Trump to roaring applause and cheers from a packed Cleveland stadium.

Marco Rubio, heralded in a former political life as an immigration reform advocate, seemed to follow suit and reaching beyond Mexico: “The evidence is now clear that the majority of people coming across the border are not from Mexico,” said Rubio. “They’re coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. Those countries are the source of the people that are now coming in its majority. I also believe we need a fence.”

After many raucous moments over immigration, ISIL strategies, NSA surveillance and defunding Planned Parenthood, moderators eventually touched on race.

“[M]any in the Black Lives Matter movement, and beyond, believe that overly-aggressive police officers targeting young African Americans is the civil rights issue of our time. Do you agree? And if so, how do you plan to address it? And if not, why not?” asked moderator Megyn Kelly.

Interestingly enough, Kelly punted that question to a rather dry performing Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), without any mention of the four very high profile killings of unarmed Black people that happened in Ohio. Walker predictably dodged it, using controversial and rabidly conservative Black Milwaukee County Sherriff David Clarke as the “my Black friend” cover.

Even with the Buckeye State’s governor mere yards away from Walker, it appeared odd that no one thought to ask him about cases such as Tamir Rice, which happened right in Cleveland , even though he is a two-term governor who won with nearly a quarter Black support in his state – in his eagerness to pivot to a Whiter national Republican electorate.

When asked by Kelly what he would do to help heal the racial divide, Carson responded: “You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done,” in what seemed like a standard template Black Republican response.

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