I See White People

The Republican "Pledge to America" is chock full of photographs of Real Americans. And they're disproportionately old white people.

Matt Yglesias looks through the Republicans’ Pledge to America [PDF] and notices something a mite peculiar:

But literally 100 percent of the people in the photos are white. It’s just a little glimpse at a particular vision of what America looks like.

Now, this isn’t strictly true.  First off, John Boehner is prominently featured.  He’s orange.  And there are a few folks who look like they’re of Asian or Hispanic origin pictured.  I’m pretty sure that’s Loretta Sanchez on page 44 and page 18 has the most obvious examples of non-white “Regular Americans.”  And there does appear to be an African American in the front row of the crowd shot on page 10 and another in the meeting shown on page 44.  There are probably others in the crowd shots; it’s hard to guess race and ethnicity at that scale.

But, yeah, the people shown are by and large white.   But what strikes me as more interesting is how old most of the people pictured are.  At 44, I’m well into middle age and it still jumps out at me.

On the one hand, this shouldn’t be surprising.   This is the Republican base.  And, especially, this is who makes up the Tea Party, to whom the Pledge is clearly trying to pander.  To the extent that a midterm election is about motivating loyalists to show up, it makes some sense.

At the same time, however, it’s an odd calculation.   One would think that, with Americans disillusioned with politics and with even loyalists unhappy with the Democratic Party, that the GOP would use the opportunity to broaden their appeal.    And this document isn’t going to do that.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Race and Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. First off, John Boehner is prominently featured.  He’s orange.

    Yep, if nothing else the GOP has the Oompa Loompa vote locked this year




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  2. Jeff says:

    Yes, adding lots of pictures of blacks, asians and hispanics would certainly have made this document MUCH more appealing to minorities.  We should always judge a book by the color of the people in its pictures than by the content of its words … but would that be pandering as well ?  I’m confused, I thought pandering was a bad thing ?




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  3. Steve Plunk says:

    Think for a minute.  The announcement is made midweek and during working hours.  Where would the younger people be?  At work.
     
    Look at your typical city committee or commission and you will find it is mostly older people as well.  Retirees take up politics instead of gardening these days.  It’s not about pandering to certain demographic but about who has the time and inclination to attend rallies.  It may also be about where those rallies might be.  In my town we have a very small minority community so you could expect a picture similar to the one above.
     
    Yglesias is always looking for something amiss so he can blame white people.




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  4. James Joyner says:

    Yes, adding lots of pictures of blacks, asians and hispanics would certainly have made this document MUCH more appealing to minorities.

    If you’re targeting to a wide audience, you pay attention to optics.




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  5. Davebo says:

    “If you’re targeting to a wide audience, you pay attention to optics.”

    But they aren’t targeting a wide audience James.  Nor have they for the past twenty years plus.

    Ignoring that fact may make things easier for some, but it’s still a fact.




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  6. James Joyner says:

    But they aren’t targeting a wide audience James.  Nor have they for the past twenty years plus.

    They’ve somehow managed to win the White House and majorities in Congress over much of that time, so they were clearly doing something right.




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  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    “We should always judge a book by the color of the people in its pictures than by the content of its words …”

    Unfortunately the words don’t make much sense and in particular the sums don’t add up. As someone has already commented the Republican party has now discarded the war on terror and embarked on a war on arithmetic.  




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  8. Anon says:

    In my opinion at least, Republicans have natural allies in large segments of the Asian-American and Indian-American population. Most of us value hard work, individual initiative, etc. The main thing that holds us (I am 2nd generation) back is anti-intellectualism (as exemplified by the elevation of people such as Joe the Plumber) and demonization of illegal immigrants. (I have no problem with enforcement of laws, borders, etc., it’s the demonization part that is a turn off.)




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  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steve Plunk says:

    Friday, September 24, 2010 at 10:42

    “Think for a minute.  The announcement is made midweek and during working hours.  Where would the younger people be?  At work.”

    It’s obvious you do a lot of thinking Steve Plunk.




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  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    Anon says:

    Friday, September 24, 2010 at 11:07

    ” The main thing that holds us (I am 2nd generation) back is anti-intellectualism”

    You mean their policies don’t make sense in the context of a modern 21st century state? That’s what’s caused droves of the upper middle classes (of whom I’m one) to jump ship.




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  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Democrats target audiences.  Attempting to appeal to each segment.  They sell the poor ones a lot of yak.  Those with the bucks, they listen to and appease, all the while talking about targeting the rich.  They target the rich alright.  For donations.  Republicans put out their message.  Guess minoritys were not at the lumber yard that day.  If the Republican message appeals to you, vote Republican.  If you want more government in your life, vote Democrat.




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  12. reid says:

    “Republicans have natural allies in large segments of the Asian-American and Indian-American population. Most of us value hard work, individual initiative, etc.”
     
    Are you suggesting hard work and individual initiative are Republican-only principles?  Because that’s nonsense.  What next, you love your country and support the troops?




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  13. wr says:

    The Republicans can’t try to broaden their base. Their sole platform is “let’s take the country back” — which means taking it back from those uppity minorities and returning it to white people.




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  14. Anon says:

    Are you suggesting hard work and individual initiative are Republican-only principles?  Because that’s nonsense.  What next, you love your country and support the troops?

     
    No, but rather that those are some of the values that Republicans target. (Whether they actually have those values is another question.) I think that most Republicans and most Democrats share most of the same values, but that the nature of two-party politics tends to create caricatures.




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  15. reid says:

    Anon: Glad to hear you understand that it’s just Republican marketing, along with idiotic negative memes like Dems being soft on national security.  I wish we could inject more truthfulness and meaningfulness into our caricature of a political system.  Instead, we get junk like The Pledge.




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  16. floyd says:

     If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is being dissembled into nonsense and jibberish before or eyes.




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  17. JKB says:

    You know when missing racial groups matter in photographs?  When the photos are carefully choreographed to reflect diversity regardless of the actual reality.  You know the kind of professionally run astroturf we see so much of from a certain party we’ll not name.




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  18. reid says:

    JKB, it’s okay to say the “R” word….




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  19. Wayne says:

    Of course the Dem crowds are scrutinizing in the same way.

    Please don’t go cherry picking crowds as proof. Can you find some Dem crowds with blacks in them? Yes as you can Rep crowds. However you can find Dem crowds that look just like the one picture as well. Only difference is you don’t have people waiting to bounce on those pictures to promote a B.S. myth.




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  20. Anon says:

    Please don’t go cherry picking crowds as proof.

    Uh, shouldn’t you be directing this towards the Republican leadership that produced the document? After all, they are the ones who cherry-picked these photos! This doesn’t mean that Republicans are racists, or anything like that. Just an observation about demographics.




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  21. ponce says:

    The Republican leaders who bravely selected these pure white photos are bravely fighting the photographic multiculturalism the liberals are trying to force down our throats with their jackboots.




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  22. john personna says:

    Killing time and cross-reading while my iPhone upgrade runs … I suggest this as an explanation for it all:

    A monkey economy as irrational as ours

    http://www.ted.com/talks/laurie_santos.html




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  23. MarkedMan says:

    First off, John Boehner is prominently featured.  He’s orange.
     

    Curse you James, for making me laugh so hard I spit out my coffee.




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  24. Brett says:

    <blockquote>First off, John Boehner is prominently featured.  He’s orange.</blockquote>
    I’ve always wondered what the secret is to his nice “Chemical Orange” tan.




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  25. Brett says:

    Dang it! I swear, that really is the last time . . .

    First off, John Boehner is prominently featured.  He’s orange.

    I’ve always wondered what the secret is to his nice “Chemical Orange” tan.




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  26. Steve Plunk says:

    Brummagem Joe,
     
    Make a point please.  If there is one.




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  27. An Interested Party says:

    “You know the kind of professionally run astroturf we see so much of from a certain party we’ll not name.”
    But enough about the Tea Party crowd…
     
     
    “Only difference is you don’t have people waiting to bounce on those pictures to promote a B.S. myth.”
    Oh?  So it’s only a “myth” that the GOP isn’t diverse?  Good luck proving that…




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  28. Wayne says:

    Anon
    And what is the purpose of the observation about demographics? Why isn’t these observations notice when Dems have an almost all white crowd?




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  29. Wayne says:

    Re “So it’s only a “myth” that the GOP isn’t diverse?”
    That is correct. There are many minorities in the GOP. Steel, Rice, Powell, log Cabin Republicans, about half of the Mexican population where I live at and many more.  

     

     

     




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  30. Some of you seem to be misunderstanding the point here.

    The point isn’t that the audience at Thursday’s presentation was mostly white. It’s that pictures in the glossy brochure that the House GOP produced to highlight what they say is the centerpiece of their campaign for the next five weeks are of mostly white people.

    Like James said, that’s bad optics — and something that could be very easily fixed.




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  31. john personna says:

    In case you don’t follow, I’m going you one better.  It’s the old monkeys.  Young monkeys have better things to do.




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  32. Anon says:

    Anon
    And what is the purpose of the observation about demographics? Why isn’t these observations notice when Dems have an almost all white crowd?

     
    Well, for some reason the GOP chose those pictures. One possible theory is that those are the only pictures they had. Another one is that they think that these pictures will somehow help their election prospects this season, which might say something about the demographic that they are targeting. I’m sure that there are other theories. I don’t know which is right.
     
    If the Democrats put out a high-profile document with all-white pictures, then we can also formulate theories.




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  33. Rock says:

    What color would be prominent at a NAACP gathering?




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  34. Grewgills says:

    What color would be prominent at a NAACP gathering?

    Are you trying to say that the GOP is the NAACP for white people?




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  35. sam says:

    Gee, somebody could’ve said, “I see almost dead white people who’d shit a brick if somebody in the gubmint messed with their Medicare.”




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  36. Rock says:

    I read recently that before long Caucasians will be in the minority in the US of A. When that happens will Caucasians be able to play the race card?




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  37. Rock says:

    Are you trying to say that the GOP is the NAACP for white people?

    I’m sorry that you didn’t understand the question. Are you suggesting that the NAACP is racist if swarms of Caucasians aren’t members or attend their gatherings?




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  38. wr says:

    Rock — I’m sure you’re aware that the NAACP exists to help African-Americans. Therefore, the only way in which these two instances can be equivalent is if the Republican part exists to help white people. Is that now clear to you? Because if you’re trying to help your side, you should really rethink your strategy…




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  39. Wayne says:

    Wr
    Rock’s point is you can’t judge people motivation by simply looking at the makeup of the crowd. Is that now clear to you?
     
    I see people in that crowd. It is a shame all you see is “white people”.




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  40. Rock says:

    It never occurs to me to count the colors or ethnicity of people in a crowd or room. I normally don’t pay attention to it unless someone points it out and drops a race card if the racial makeup of those gathered isn’t what they think it should be. In this case it is our esteemed James Joyner and a few others who see mostly white people and started counting minorities. In fact this blog post is called “I See White People.” The photo has as tag called “white-people-republican-pledge.”

    I don’t see white people. I see Americans. Apparently more that a few people here do judge motivation by the makeup of the crowd.




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  41. wr says:

    Wayne and Rock — Right. Funny, this is exactly how the whites in Mississippi talked in 1964 — we don’t see race, we just see our friends around us. We’ve got no idea why those other people choose to live in tarpaper shacks and never register to vote. What’s that, you say they’re colored? Glory me, I never noticed…




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  42. Anon says:

    It never occurs to me to count the colors or ethnicity of people in a crowd or room. I normally don’t pay attention to it unless someone points it out and drops a race card if the racial makeup of those gathered isn’t what they think it should be.

     
    The reason it never occurs to you is because it never exceeds what you subconsciously consider to be normal. If you walked into a Democratic rally where nine out ten people were Black, you’d notice. Any non-blind person would notice. To notice doesn’t mean you are racist, though.




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  43. anjin-san says:

    Judging from the volume level on the right wing whine-o-meter here, I would say a nerve was hit…




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  44. anjin-san says:

    >  I don’t see white people. I see Americans
    Can you tell us what your position is on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and gay marriage?




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  45. floyd says:

    It’s kinda hard to play “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to playing racist games with photographs, but it sounds like a pretty good policy in general when it comes to leveraging race or ethnicity for politial gain, don’t you think?




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  46. Rock says:

    Wr Says:

    Wayne and Rock — Right. Funny, this is exactly how the whites in Mississippi talked in 1964 — we don’t see race, we just see our friends around us. We’ve got no idea why those other people choose to live in tarpaper shacks and never register to vote. What’s that, you say they’re colored? Glory me, I never noticed…

    Tarpaper shacks?

    When I was a young lad in the 40’s I lived in a series of clapboard shacks or shotgun shacks with interior walls covered with tarpaper. Lumber companies in the dusty sawmill town where I lived owned these houses. Lumber company employees, black and white, lived side by side in these houses all on the wrong side of town and across the tracks. Abject poverty glued us together. Toilets were outhouses out back and running water was delivered to the kitchen sink and a bathroom if you had one. Electricity amounted to one electrical cord in each room and dangled from the ceiling with a light bulb socket. Eventually these company houses were wired with standard electrical outlets. Heat in winter was a potbelly stove in the living room and cooking was done on a wood burning stove in the kitchen. No one owned a refrigerator, range or other kitchen appliances. We kept food in an icebox. An ice delivery truck would come around three times a week to deliver ice.

    We were the poorest of the poor and were no better off than the black families living in the same houses. My father never made more than $40 bucks per week during his entire life. Deductions from his pay for rent and groceries at the company store left very little to live on. We were all called “Sawmill Trash.”

    Having said all that, Wr, I have a fairly good idea why people live in tarpaper shacks.

    By 1964 I was in the Army and by then I’d overcome any racism I might have harbored in my younger years. A year earlier, in 63, most of the soldiers in my unit had either watched or heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Our commanders made damn sure all of us listened to it in the months that followed the speech. Most of us agreed that it was fantastic. For me the ethnic diversity in the military was intriguing and very educational. I enjoyed working side by side with people of every color, creed and national origin. In the early 60s military combat units routinely trained in riot control techniques and tactics in case they were called out to quell civilian unrest and race riots. Designated riot control units were on standby in case they were needed and could move with a few hours notice. By 1971 I was in Vietnam and discovered that all blood is red and it didn’t matter one iota what race you were when you were bleeding or needed blood.

    I’m sorry for the long post.

    Rock




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