Organizers conceived of this convention as a means to inspire, but some African American Republicans have found the Xcel Energy Center depressing this week. Everywhere they look, they see evidence of what they consider one of their party's biggest shortcomings.
As the country rapidly diversifies, Republicans are presenting a convention that is almost entirely white.
Only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor are black, the lowest number since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies began tracking diversity at political conventions 40 years ago. 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, U.S. senator or U.S. House member in the past six years.
Shocked, you say. Shocked.
The lack of diversity is out of sync with the demographic changes in the United States. The Census Bureau reported last month 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 percent are black and 14.8 percent are Hispanic, according to 2006 census numbers.
What has helped Republicans is that working-class whites, a bloc they rely on, are more likely to vote than other groups. "But if there is a loss this time, and it is attributed to a smaller and smaller base of white voters, there might be a rethinking" of GOP strategy, said Robert E. Lang, co-director of Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, which studies demographics and other development patterns.
"If we don't get better at reaching out, we're in big trouble," agreed Michael Williams, a black Republican who chairs the Texas Railroad Commission and who spoke Wednesday night. "It doesn't take much to see that this is not what America looks like. . . . We're trying, but we're not there yet."
I don't think you're ever going to get there in my lifetime or yours either, Mike.