The GOP’s Rosa Parks Tweet Was Lazy Politics

Rosa Parks escorted by then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert as she arrived for ceremonies awarding her the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999
Rosa Parks escorted by then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert as she arrived for ceremonies awarding her the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999

When your party’s presidential candidate can only muster a dismal 6 percent of black votes, 27 percent of Latino votes and 26 percent of Asian-American votes in the most recent election, one thing should be abundantly clear: You can’t expect to solve that problem with a tweet.

But in a roundabout way, that’s how the GOP wound up embarrassing itself this week after someone at the helm of their official Twitter account unintentionally (we hope) declared an “ending” to racism on the way to celebrating the legacy of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

By now you’ve already read about it, but here it is again, just in case:

Instead of reinforcing the link between the Republican Party and a heroine of the civil rights era, their errant 94-character missive prompted across-the-board ridicule in the form of a (hilarious) #RacismEndedWhen trending hashtag, Juli Weiner’s (biting) summation in Vanity Fair that “the cell service is just bad at Niggerhead Ranch,” an enlightening primer from Salon’s Josh Eidelson on Parks’ progressive roots and another GOP "autopsy," of sorts, from WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart, who declared the party “dead” to the constituencies of color that it struggled reach in 2012.


You could argue, as the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky wrote Tuesday, that like any true “gaffe,” the GOP’s errant tweet wasn’t merely a syntax error or faux pas, but an unintended exposition of contemporary Republicans’ skewed views on race.

But at a minimum—and even if you give Republicans the benefit of the doubt—the Rosa Parks tweet reflects a laziness in the way that they’re trying to establish ties with constituents of color.

They’re way too far in the red with black, brown and yellow voters to get right just by sending out a few tweets of admiration for the most visible civil rights icons—after all, there's no one at this point who would cop to being anything other than pro-Rosa Parks.

Shouting her out is the Twitter equivalent of taking a bold stand in favor of pizza, beer and Saturday.


To have success nationally, it’ll take a rethinking of the Republican alternatives on universal health care reform, which voters of color still favor despite its flagging popularity nationally. They’ll have to stop toying with immigration reform—an issue near and dear to Latinos—and they’ll have to find ways to differ with President Barack Obama in a manner that’s more collegial and less caustic.

Because if they’d given this a little more thought, they’d have figured out that black, Latino and Asian-American voters want the same thing from politicians that everyone does—respect.


The GOP already has a message that would resonate with voters of color: Tax less of my money, and spend the money you do tax more wisely.

But that core philosophy is completely buried under a seemingly endless string of racially tinged verbal blunders, like Rep. Steve King’s riff about immigrants with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling” bales of marijuana across the border, or Sen. Ted Cruz—a likely future presidential candidate—going out of his way to express admiration for the late Sen. Jesse Helms—a legendary segregationist. It displays a lack of basic respect for the minority electorate.


And the minority electorate has taken notice.

Not only are these all nonstarters for voters of color, but they also make it look like the party isn’t quite committed yet to rolling up their sleeves and doing the heavy lifting that will be necessary to attract a bigger share of the minority electorate.


Where’s the GOP’s Marshall Plan for Detroit, or their renewed push for the late Rep. Jack Kemp’s “empowerment zones”? They need better PR, but they also need a few new ideas.

And while no single idea will turn things around overnight when it comes to Republicans and voters of color, if they want to make a comeback, they have to put in the work.


Tweets, on the other hand, are the easy part, and—for now—the GOP isn't even getting that right.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor for The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`