Grand White Party

Can Republicans get down with the brown?

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In future, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has long been cited as a plausible party leader. Other faces of color, such as conservative Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño, Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio or former Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, could mount national campaigns—though Watts has said of minority candidate recruitment, “I’ve never gotten the impression that it was institutionalized.”

The three days of discussion leading up to the vote on Friday will be a key indicator as to which way the wind is blowing for the GOP. The optics of a black RNC chairman could prove irresistible to the embattled minority. Both African-American candidates are already big departures from the status quo: Blackwell “twitters” and recently used the online technology to dub himself “a new media ninja.” And, unlike many non-minority politicians, Steele “loves to talk about race,” says Lindsay Williams Grath, a white GOPAC volunteer who has worked closely with him. True to form, Steele told the conservative Washington Times that “the problem is that within the operations of the RNC, they don't give a damn. It’s all about outreach ... and outreach means let’s throw a cocktail party, find some black folks and Hispanics and women, wrap our arms around them—‘See, look at us.’ ”

That sounds like truth to power. If the Republican Party can successfully shift its focus from ethnic accessorization, to actually “look at us,” the results could be interesting. After all, the title of rising conservative leader Mike Huckabee’s new book—often heavily critical of the Republican intelligentsia—is Do the Right Thing.

Dayo Olopade is a Washington reporter for The Root.

Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.