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April 30, 2004
Kerry's Diversity Problems Grow: NYT

In a sign that John Kerry may be experiencing some real damage from his monochromatic senior campaign staff, the New York Times covers criticism from minority groups on the Kerry campaign's lack of diversity in much greater detail than CNN's article from yesterday. The normally supportive Jodi Wilgoren writes in today's Times that not only is the protest more widespread than CNN reported, but more passionate as well:

For weeks, Senator John Kerry savored a Democratic Party that was unified in rallying behind his presidential candidacy. But in recent days, influential black and Hispanic political leaders whom the campaign had counted on for support have been openly complaining that Mr. Kerry's organization lacks diversity and is failing to appeal directly to minority voters.

Even as Mr. Kerry spoke here on Thursday to the National Conference of Black Mayors an appearance his community outreach team viewed as critical to building a network of minority support two influential Latino leaders circulated harsh letters expressing concern about the campaign's dealings with minorities.

And in interviews over the last week, more than a dozen minority elected officials and political strategists voiced concerns about what they said was the dearth of representation in Mr. Kerry's inner circle and worried that he was taking black and Hispanic votes for granted.

Of course, the Democrats have taken black votes for granted for decades, and while the Hispanic vote has proved easier to capture in recent elections, the party's approach to them has been much the same. Until the Bush presidency, these groups felt that their best chance at participating in high-level politics lay with the Democrats. However, in striking contrast to the "dearth of representation" they experience with Kerry, a quick look at Bush's cabinet and senior staff reveals that this administration has created the most de facto diverse American leadership ever, without making a show of it, and repeatedly showing Bush's personal ease with reaching out to anyone.

While I hardly expect the long-term, self-appointed spokespeople for minority groups to publicly shift positions -- people like Jesse Jackson (Jr or Sr) have too much at stake personally to ever attack Kerry -- the rank and file may look at this disparity between Kerry's rhetoric and his practice and determine that the Democrats have produced a particularly transparent brand of racial hypocrite. It threatens to expose the tired policies of handouts and patronizing set-asides as the only inclusion that Democrats offer, while Republicans offer true leadership positions as well as innovative solutions to real problems in their community, such as school vouchers to bypass the failed, hidebound school systems that keep their children from succeeding.

Some quotes from Wilgoren, which indicate much more disenchantment with Kerry than CNN previously noted:

"The reality is that we're entering May and the Kerry campaign has no message out there to the Hispanic community nor has there been any inkling of any reach-out effort in any state to the Hispanic electorate, at least with any perceivable sustainable strategy in mind," Alvaro Cifuentes, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Caucus, said in an e-mail message to party leaders provided by a recipient who insisted on anonymity. "It is no secret that the word of mouth in the Beltway and beyond is not that he does not get it, it is that he does not care."

Separately, in a letter addressed to Mr. Kerry, Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the National Council of La Raza, denounced the "remarkable and unacceptable absence of Latinos in your campaign."

"Relegating all of your minority staff to the important but limited role of outreach only reinforces perceptions that your campaign views Hispanics as a voting constituency to be mobilized, but not as experts to be consulted in shaping policy," wrote Mr. Yzaguirre, whose group is among the oldest, largest and most influential representing Hispanics. ...

Andi Pringle, who worked for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns and was a deputy campaign manager for Howard Dean, said that in addition to staffing, she wondered where minorities fit into Mr. Kerry's schedule, message and field efforts.

"All I've seen is on occasion there are a couple of Sundays where he's gone to church," said Ms. Pringle, who has a direct-mail firm.

Dean took a full blast from Al Sharpton just before the Iowa causcuses on minority representation in his Vermont administrations, even though Vermont's African-American community comprised less than 1% of its population. Massachussetts's population is 7% African-American and 5% Hispanic, and yet not only does Kerry not have any campaign leaders from this community, Al Sharpton has remained mostly silent, except to ridicule the notion of criticism:

The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of Mr. Kerry's two black primary opponents, said he had been welcomed with two one-on-one meetings and the candidate's personal cellphone number. He and some others attributed the complaints to old rivalries stemming as far back as Mr. Jackson's 1988 campaign against former Gov. Michael Dukakis, whose Massachusetts-based inner circle overlaps somewhat with Mr. Kerry's.

"I don't know whether the criticism is based on people wanting to see the inner circle diversified or whether it's a job application through the media," Mr. Sharpton said.

In other words, Al got his, and the rest of you can pound sand. No wonder Democrats feel as though they can take these communities for granted when their so-called leaders are so obviously out for only themselves. Perhaps it's time for leadership changes within the minority communities themselves.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 30, 2004 5:41 AM

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