Republicans: Dean Should Step Down
African American Republicans in the state are calling for the resignation of Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean for comments they say are racially insensitive. Mississippi Republican Executive Committee member Charles Evers said Dean should apologize and step down.
He told reporters Monday that in a February 11th speech to the D.N.C. Black Caucus, Dean said, “You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?” Then Dean added “Only if they had hotel staff in here.”
The Vermont Governor’s remarks were published in The Washington Post February 15th.
Bill believes that this story would be getting wall-to-wall coverage were it, say, RNC Chair Ken Melhman. It’s hard to disagree.
That said, I don’t see any reason Dean should be censured over this incident. Such comments are typical red meat Democrats use in front of audiences they perceive as friendly. For example, Bill Clinton’s joke at the 1993 White House Correspondents’ Dinner about Rush Limbaugh: “Did you like the way he took up for Janet Reno the other night on his program? He only did it because she was attacked by a black guy.” It went over with a thud but I don’t recall Clinton ever apologizing for it.
Dean’s joke is less aggregious, because it doesn’t directly accuse anyone of racism. It’s true that blacks are overwhelmingly in the Democratic camp and that blacks are disproportionately represented in lower-end occupations like hotel cleaning staffs. From my perspective, the joke was at the expense of the GOP, not black people. I don’t find it funny but nor do I find it offensive.
LaShawn Barber and Juliette Ochieng, who were on this one days ago, disagree with me on the issue of offensiveness. Apparently, the black Democrats in the room agree with me on that point but found it uproarously funny.
Clearly, despite the incredible strides we’ve made in race relations over the last fifty years, it’s probably best for white guys to steer clear of jokes with any racial connotations. Obviously, that goes double for Republicans. But Democrats from states where blacks make up 0.5% of the population should probably be careful, too.