The ‘Rejection’ Party


Four leading Republican presidential candidates snubbed next week’s debate at a historically black university in Maryland. Earlier this month all but one Republican presidential hopeful declined to participate in Univision TV’s Spanish-language debate.

Candidates aside, the Republican Party not only turned down an invitation to speak at the annual Muslim convention over the Labor Day weekend, but two congressmen blasted the Justice Department for sending representatives to a “radical jihadists” convention.

Democratic presidential candidates, on the other hand, participated in the black and the Spanish-language debates. Howard Dean, the party’s chairman, spoke at the Muslim convention, along with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

While the Republicans’ rejection pattern is disconcerting, the decision to abandon a large portion of the American people is no less than political suicide, especially if you consider that President Bush won about 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and in 2004. He also won a majority of the Muslim vote in 2000.

Republican PartySen. Mel Martinez of Florida, a Latino who happens to be the current chairman of the Republican Party, told CNN that he is disappointed with his comrades’ decision to shun the Spanish-language debate.

Yeah right. Martinez should check with U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, the fiery Coloradoan, who promised to make English “the official language of the land” if he’s elected!

Still, though of course most black Americans speak English, not Spanish, four leading GOP presidential hopefuls decided to skip next week’s black-themed debate: Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. (I wouldn’t be surprised if no Republican candidate shows up.)

It makes you wonder — by disregarding the importance of African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims, — how the Republican Party is trying to define itself. Combined, these groups wield significant political clout that no wise candidate dares to ignore.

Tavis Smiley, the charismatic PBS talk show host, who will moderate the Sept. 27 debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore, summed it up well.

“No one should be elected president of this country in 2008 if they think that along the way they can ignore people of color,” Smiley told USA Today last week. “If you want to be president of all America, you need to speak to all Americans.”

Unless, as has the Republican clique, you rest your fate with Americans who agree with you all the time. Or you calculate that with the war in Iraq going awry, and with nasty scandals popping up here and there, your chances of winning the White House are slim.

I can’t explain the GOP’s actions any better.

Can you?