The Republican Party has been criticized over the years for its lack of diversity. Blacks, Hispanics, women and youth have been an issue for the GOP which is likely due, in part, to the lack of those same groups being represented in leadership positions. While we absolutely have work to be done in gaining the support of these groups, I don’t think the Republican Party has done enough to promote the voices that we do have, and this year, neither has CPAC.
Sure, we got to hear from some of our favorite conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen Tim Scott, but what about the grass roots activist? Why aren’t they being placed on the big stage or given a speaking role on a panel?
It pained me to see people like Mitch McConnell being given a microphone at CPAC while Col. Allen West, who was not asked to speak this year, hung out on Radio Row. It annoyed me to no end that Gov. Chris Christie from my home state of New Jersey was asked to speak even after all of his post-Sandy Obama butt kissing and recent anti-conservative positions such as in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and supporting pro-gun control legislation.
While I think it is important for congressman and senators to speak at CPAC, I think it is just as imperative, maybe even more so, for us to hear from activists and dynamic grass-roots individuals who are eager to share their message with others. I’m talking about people, for instance, like Kira Davis, Sonnie Johnson, Deneen Borelli and Wayne Dupree.
On the last day of CPAC, many people were expressing these concerns and we discussed them on the Wayne Dupree Radio Show with Kira Davis and Sonnie Johnson. Sonnie, who was close friends with the late Andrew Breitbart (and a former PolitiChicks anchor), recalled her experience with CPAC a few years ago when Andrew insisted that she introduce him. She said that she was expecting to be invited to speak this year but that didn’t happen.
“I thought that this year, an invitation would be extended. You know I’ve played different positions in the last couple years and I thought maybe this time they would see the wisdom in maybe opening it up a little bit more but I guess I wished too much too fast.”
If we ever want to break through this barrier and reach a larger demographic of people, we need to start by looking at who we already have on our team and allow them to make our case and use the tools that they know work to get out our message. Referring to the lack of grassroots voices on panels, Sonnie went on to say,
“It ticks me off because they are supposed to love these grass roots activists, these every-day working Americans who are becoming a part of this fight. They say they want those people involved.”
What I gathered from my CPAC experience was that some voices, knowingly or unknowingly, are being excluded and in many cases, the people who we aren’t hearing from are the ones working the hardest for the cause. Sure, they may get the message across differently. Sonnie definitely has a distinct style and approach to promoting her conservative values. But, hey, if it works, let it work!
I would like to see CPAC become more of a platform for new, up and coming voices to gain exposure, instead of a parade of the same people or those we just have grown to expect to see on the stage.
I think Sonnie summed it up quite accurately:
“Diversity is not having a black person and a white person. Diversity is having differences in thought. Differences in approach and differences in battle tactics. And that’s the part they refuse to understand.”