The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 29, 2013

Young's slur highlights GOP's image problem


Before Young casually referred to Latino ranch-workers as "wetbacks," an RNC official from Michigan this week engaged in a more deliberate effort to argue that being gay is an unhealthy lifestyle — posting an article to his Facebook page that labeled homosexuality as "filthy."

GOP leaders, who have never had much regard or use for the longtime and oft-embattled congressman from Alaska, were quick to denounce both him and the RNC committeeman, Dave Agema.

"The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party," assured RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who last week launched the GOP effort to reach out to minority communities.

The problem for Priebus is, even if you grant that Young's and Agema's views are not representative of the broader GOP, they are high-ranking officials in the party who were elected to their positions. (Young has won 21 consecutive elections for his at-large House seat.)

And under the new media paradigm — when an isolated incident explodes on cable news and through online social networks — these remarks can quickly dominate the day's political discourse.

Some Republicans argue that there is a double-standard at work, in which the media focus on outlandish things that Republicans say and ignore similar rants by Democrats.

"There is always a market in the media for the craziest thing a Republican said today," said GOP consultant Ed Rogers. "There is nothing the left likes better than to find some off-the-wall statement by a Republican and then use it to tar the Party as a whole. . . . That is why Republicans have to be extra careful."

The fact is that the GOP has much more to prove (and much more room for improvement) when it comes to minority outreach. And you don't have to look too far into the past to find instances of prominent Republicans taking pretty hard-line and often bluntly stated positions against the issues which gay people and Latinos care about most — same-sex marriage and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

That recent history isn't going to be forgotten any time soon, which places a much greater onus on the party to watch what it says and how it says it.

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