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Blog: GOP Wants to Diversify at Its Convention, But…

By Ed Diokno

Uh oh. The GOP National Convention kicks off today and before it starts it is already off to a rocky start and organizers are scrambling.

Wall Street Journal reporter Byron Tau couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the sign at the convention center in Cleveland. It read, “White Elevators,” conjuring up images of Jim Crowism when signs were placed all over the south designating White Only drinking fountains, White Only restrooms and White Only entrances to restaurants and businesses.

In the middle of all the chaos is an Asian American, Marcia Lee Kelly, who has been in Cleveland for a year organizing the Republicans’ national conclave.

No one seems to know who put up the sign, but Kelly is making sure it is being replaced. The best explanation is this tweet:

Hmmm. Do you buy that?

But the white Elevator kerfuffle is minor compared to what Kelly has to contend with: 2,470 delegates, more than 50,000 guests and about 15,000 members of the media, including a large international press corps. Various groups — from right-wing activists, some swear to tote their guns in this open-carry state, to left-wing anarchists — also have vowed to show up in a city still seething from the 2014 fatal police shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy with a pellet gun.

Marcia Lee Kelly
Marcia Lee Kelly

“We live in a volatile, somewhat dangerous world right now and we’re determined to make sure our guests and the city of Cleveland are safe,” Kelly told the L.A. Times. “You worry about what you can control. I write everything down. We start meetings on time. I always have an agenda. Always have next steps. It’s weird but the more intense things get, the calmer I get.”

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After releasing the initial list of speakers, it was pointed out that there was only one person of color among the scores of speakers — Sen. Ted Cruz, who is half-Cuban. A day later, five speakers were added, including Lisa Shin, an Asian American optometrist and founder of Korean Americans for Trump. The other speakers — Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, TV personality Pat Smite, Senate candidate Daryl Glenn, Jamiel Shaw, father of a slain gang member, Pastor Mark Burns and Dr. Ben Carson, a former rival who has endorsed Trump — are all African American.

It is likely that more speakers of color will be added — think Amarosa, the African American businesswoman who was a contestant on Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice, and who has been active in his presidential campaign.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will be attending after all after initially saying she hadn’t made up her mind about going. She drew Trump’s ire when she publicly criticized Trump’s anti-immigrant and inflammatory rhetoric, once during the Republican response to the President Obama’s State of the Union address and again, when she endorsed Trump’s political rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

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For now, Haley is not on the speaker’s list, but for diversity’s sake, she might still get an invite. Until Trump has the nomination in the bag, Haley was seen as the future of the GOP in its attempt to broaden its appeal to minorities. That strategy, apparently, has all but been abandoned.

Expect the TV cameras to zero in on all the minorities in the audience to give the appearance of diversity even though the 2016 convention is expected be whiter than usual, even by GOP standards. Why do the networks do that? Are they under control of the GOP? If their job is to report the truth, then show the convention as it really is. Why focus on the few minority delegates when the overwhelming number of delegates are White?

Outside of a few Asian American entrepreneurs who admire Trump’s reputed business acumen, don’t expect to see many AAPI delegates — not after he mocked Indian Americans and Chinese Americans by attempting to speak English in their respective accents and called for a complete ban on Muslim immigration.

RELATED: Asian Americans lean towards the Democrats

According to a survey conducted this Spring by three Asian American organizations, only 19 percent of Asian Americans hold a favorable view of the presumptive Republican nominee, while 61 percent view him unfavorably.

As recently as the last decade, political pundits thought the Asian American community would be the most likely ethnic group to vote for Republicans. The increasingly anti-immigrant positions taken by the GOP has pushed AAPI voters towards the Democrats. Asian Americans have also taken the racist language and positions into consideration, even when it is not directed at them.

RELATED: Asian Americans are well aware of xenophobic rhetoric

The swing towards the Democrats has been growing over the last two Presidential elections. While just 35 percent of Asian Americans identified as Democrats in 2012, 47 percent do so today; those identifying as Republicans have declined slightly from 18 percent in 2012 to 15 percent in 2016, within the survey’s margin of error.

If Kelly’s claim is true — that she really does get calmer as the situation gets more intense — by the end of this week, she could be so calm, it would take an elephant stampede to awaken her.



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