(The Root) — Since their dismal showing in the 2012 elections, the Republican Party has spent much of the last several months behaving as a contestant on Extreme Home Makeover. With an overwhelming majority of voters of color choosing the Democratic candidate in the last presidential contest, Republicans began mapping out a plan to introduce Americans to a kinder, gentler GOP.
High-profile conservatives, from Fox News firebrand Sean Hannity to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, expressed newfound support for immigration reform. The GOP also touted its commitment to actively reaching out to minorities through new programs like Insight, co-founded by former GOP Rep. J.C. Watts, who is African American.
These efforts were likely intended to help voters forget that so many conservative leaders made racist comments about the president in his first term that they warranted a slideshow, courtesy of New York magazine. Now another Republican elected official can be added to the list.
Rep. Don Young of Alaska, the second-most-senior Republican member of Congress, used a racial slur targeting Hispanics when discussing farm laborers in a radio interview posted on Thursday. His first reaction to the backlash was to say, “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect,” before making a more complete apology on Friday in which he said, “That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century.”
If there is any upside for people of color and the GOP, it is that party leaders moved swiftly to denounce Young’s remarks. House Speaker John Boehner offered a strong rebuke, as did others. “Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. I don’t care why he said it — there’s no excuse, and it warrants an immediate apology,” Boehner said in a statement.
Perhaps this means the GOP really is ready to evolve into a kinder, gentler, more tolerant party.
Apparently, some of its members just haven’t gotten the memo yet.