Jindal absence robbed Republican party of colour
Bobby Jindal was to be the star attraction of the Sep 1-4 convention at Minnesotta, but he skipped the party to coordinate Louisiana 's response to Hurricane Gustav.Updated: Sep 05, 2008 11:50 IST
The absence of Bobby Jindal, the Indian-American governor of Louisiana, robbed the Republican convention of colour to present a true picture of diversity in a rapidly changing America.
Jindal, 37, for long speculated as a possible running mate to Republican nominee John McCain, was to be the star attraction of the Sep 1-4 convention at St Paul, Minnesotta, but he skipped the party to coordinate Louisiana 's response to Hurricane Gustav.
The conservative governor won high praise for his deft handling of the recovery efforts with one newspaper saying he presented "a face of calm during the storm," but his absence gave a largely white look to the convention in vivid contrast to Democratic rival Barack Obama's nominating conclave last week.
Down from a record 167 in 2004, only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor were black, , the lowest number since the Joint Centre for Political and Economic Studies began tracking diversity at political conventions 40 years ago. According to the think tank, 24 state delegations at the convention Centre have no black members.
Each night, the overwhelmingly white audience watches a series of white politicians step to the lectern - a visual reminder that no black Republican has served as a governor, US senator or US House member in the past six years, the Washington Post noted.
"It's hard to look around and not get frustrated," Michael S Steele, a black Republican and former lieutenant governor of Maryland was quoted as saying by the Post. "You almost have to think, 'Wait. How did it come to this?'"
Steele was the only African-American scheduled to speak during prime time at the Republican convention one week after Obama's historic nomination as the nation's first black presidential candidate by the Democrats.
Republicans spent much of the past decade working to improve their minority outreach, particularly to blacks and Hispanics, the Post said. But a number of setbacks, including an anti-Republican national mood, anger over the response to Hurricane Katrina and the Democratic nomination of Obama, have largely negated their efforts, it said citing several Republicans.
The lack of diversity was out of sync with the demographic changes in the US with the Census Bureau noting that racial and ethnic minorities will make up a majority of the country's population by 2042 -- almost a decade earlier than what the bureau predicted just four years ago.
Two-thirds of Americans are non-Hispanic whites, 12.4 per cent are black and 14.8 per cent are Hispanic, according to 2006 census numbers. The number of Americans of Indian origin is growing fast but they still total just around one per cent.
The homogeneity of the audience at St. Paul was sometimes reinforced by delegations' tendency to dress alike, the Post said. Floridians sported Hawaiian shirts decorated with palm trees Monday night, and more than 150 Texas delegates and alternates wore red shirts and straw cowboy hats Tuesday.
The minority void was amplified for Republicans who watched Obama deliver his acceptance speech in Denver last week. Blacks made up 25 percent of the delegates at Invesco Field, and black musicians Stevie Wonder and John Legend performed before Obama stepped to the lectern.
Vendors inside the stadium sold T-shirts with slogans in Spanish. Martin Luther King's son delivered a brief introductory speech.
"You see what Obama has done, and it's a reminder of what's possible," Tony Leatherman, a black Republican delegate from Texas told the Post. "It's obvious we could do better," he said scanning the convention centre.