The Republican party has been headed down the wrong path on inclusion and diversity for decades and on Monday night America saw the results as a lineup intended to highlight the party’s diversity instead exposed how little of it there is.
The night opened with Charlie Kirk, the 26-year-old white founder of Turning Point USA and one of the most divisive, and angriest figures in America. As the night went on, the party trotted out regular, everyday citizens to spotlight its supposed diversity, but they lost me when they spotlighted the man and woman who pulled loaded weapons on peaceful Black and brown protesters marching outside of their home.
In the end, Diversity Night turned out to be the biggest joke since Infrastructure Week, as an overwhelmingly white, male party tried to put its best foot forward with former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who’s Indian-American, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the party’s only Black senator. It was all tip, no iceberg.
Haley and Scott are stars, and people I used to consider the future of the Republican Party. But in the past four years I have watched both “leaders” blindly follow Trump and violate their own morals and values to fall in line with his new, less diverse and less kind GOP. The two of them had to carry a huge load Monday night since, unlike the Democrats, Republicans have almost no bench of women leaders, or of leaders of color.
Haley for her part tried to take on the issue of race in America. Boy, did she get it all wrong. The line everyone will remember from her speech is this: "In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country."
For Haley, maybe this feels true. She was the first woman, and also the first South Asian person, to be elected governor of South Carolina. She has a great American story. But for the governor who presided over and removed the Confederate flag from her state capitol in Charleston after the racially motivated murder of nine peaceful Black churchgoers to brush over racism, white nationalism, white supremacy, and the Black Lives Matter movement five years later is tone-deaf at best.
Scott’s speech was much more balanced, and somewhat less Trumpy. He focused on the 1994 crime bill that Joe Biden authored, and that many Black Americans think was racist in its implementation and impact. Scott did take a shot at Kamala Harris, his colleague in the Senate, and Joe, saying at one point that, “Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution. A fundamentally different America.” And Scott called out Biden’s Breakfast Club interview: “Joe Biden said if a Black man didn’t vote for him, he wasn’t truly Black.”
But while Scott closed the first night of the Republican convention, it was defined by the ranting, raving speech of former Fox News host Kim Guilyfoyle and the foggy, squinty-eyed speech of her boyfriend, Donald Trump Jr. And by a wild speech from the Black woman running a Quixotic congressional campaign in Baltimore, Kim Klacik, who blasted what’s happened to American cities run by Democrats, and—the coup de grâce—a speech from Vernon Jones, a Black man and member of the Georgia state House of Representatives, who introduced himself as a lifelong Democrat but who clearly hates Democrats. Go figure.
In 1996, when I was a young attorney running for U.S. Congress as a Republican, I saw this coming and tried to warn the party to change its ways while there was still time. I’ve been warning that this day was coming for a quarter-century now—that the party needed to see the coming demographic shifts and take the sunny entrepreneurial optimism, compassionate conservatism, and self-reliance of Jack Kemp and take it to the streets and directly to America’s Black and brown communities.
But they ignored me. They attacked. They alienated me and others like me, and finally I left. The party, with few exceptions, simply did not see the value in someone like me or many like me. They still do not. Two speeches Monday night did nothing to change that.