Orlando Watson, the Republican National Committee communications director for black media, has an impossible job. As a result of the GOP autopsy (a.k.a. the Growth and Opportunity Project), Watson’s task is to help the party “better reach African American voters.” Just how difficult this will be was displayed in high relief during an interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts.
Watson dismissed the fuss over the RNC’s tone-deaf tweet about Rosa Parks. “Talking about a typo in a tweet is old news,” he said. And Watson deflected questions about Republican governors’ refusal to expand Medicaid in their states, which would grant access to health care to people who need it, particularly African Americans, by hammering the president. “After five years of living under President Obama,” Watson said, “he has little to show for what he has done for the black community.” He needs to read this and this.
Watson’s performance, a melange of talking points and bluster, was like watching someone slip under water. “Blub blub blub,” I tweeted while watching. While my observation wasn’t especially nice, other reactions to Watson on my Twitter feed were down right offensive. He was branded a “token,” “boot licker” and “not black.” Someone said Watson needed to “turn in [his] bro card.” And I’m sure much worse was said elsewhere on Twitter and on the Web.
If there is one thing I can’t abide, it’s the constricting notion that certain people are supposed to think a certain way because of who they are. That’s why I defend (and totally understand why and how there are) gay Republicans. The same goes for African American Republicans. I hammered Herman Cain incessantly during the GOP primaries in 2012 not because he was a black Republican but because he was a Republican with policies that didn’t make sense and he couldn’t explain.
Blacks vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and Obama enjoys unshakeable and near universal support from them. But being black doesn’t automatically make one a Democrat, a liberal or a lover of the president. Those who insist that African Americans must be all those things are as offensive and short-sighted as those who see nothing wrong with “a typo in a tweet.”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj