Republican Mitt Romney today will speak to the NAACP convention in Houston and follow through on one of the odd rituals of presidential campaigning for the Republican Party: Going in front of a group of black people who will not vote for him and explaining why they should, all the while knowing that they won’t.
Political experts say that Republicans like Romney must go through this exercise not for the black vote, which he will never get running against the nation’s first black president, but for the reassurances it sends politically moderate white people that it’s okay to vote for him because he’s not a racist. So in asking for the votes of black people, what Romney is really doing is trying to secure the votes of white independents and more moderate-leaning Republicans.
“The first thing you need to do is show up, so I ultimately think he’s doing the right thing,” said Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., one of two black Republicans in Congress. “What he’s saying to everyone is that he’s (running to become) America’s president and not just those folks he thinks he can get votes from right now. I think that’s a very important statement.”
So everyone agrees that what Romney is really doing with the NAACP is “showing up.” President Obama, who spoke to the convention in 2008, as did his opponent John McCain, is not showing up this year. Instead, he is sending Vice President Joe Biden to address the group on Thursday. Obama has opted instead to speak to the National Urban League convention later this month.
“You’ve got to get credit for showing up—for being willing to go—no question,” Karen Finney, a Democratic consultant who worked in the Clinton White House, said about Romney. “It’s more about your actions than it is about what you say.”
“My dad’s reputation … and my own has always been one of reaching out to people and not discriminating based upon race or anything else,” Romney said in 2007.
But of course Romney hasn’t been doing a whole lot of reaching out of late as he has tried to secure the respect of the right-wing extremists in his party, who are vigorously trying to pass voter ID laws to disenfranchise as many minorities as they can.
“He’ll be standing in that room asking people for their votes at the same time that Republican legislators are trying to disenfranchise minority communities,” Finney pointed out.
During an April visit to Pennsylvania, which now has one of the toughest voter identification statutes in the nation, Romney said, “We ought to have voter identification so we know who’s voting and we have a record of that.”