Just when you thought the SCGOP couldn’t get any more politically tone-deaf, it turns out their state Party Chairman and 2010 gubernatorial front-runner are both members of additional “whites only” societies.
SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster are members of the Camellia Ball and Columbia Ball, respectively, two all-white dance clubs that hold annual debutante balls at swankly local clubs.
Republicans who are serious about reaching out to the black South Carolinians who represent a third of the state's electorate should read these words with much concern. Despite the empty words and occasional window dressing, the leadership of the Palmetto State GOP has all but set up a cross in front of it’s headquarters and set it afire when it comes to reaching out to non-white South Carolinians.
We saw the racial exclusivity of the GOP leadership in 1994, when then SCGOP Chair Henry McMaster decided to add an advisory question about flying the Confederate flag over the State House on that year’s GOP primary ballot. We saw it again a few years later when efforts by black Republicans to convince former Governor David Beasley to appoint blacks, regardless of party affiliation, to a wide range of state boards and commissions were rebuffed. We see it yet again in the names of supposed GOP leaders who are involved in whites-only social clubs.
In spite of this, many Republicans seriously don't understand why black voters won't give them the time of day.
One of the most important lessons from the Barack Obama candidacy is that a growing number of Americans expect the membership of their social organizations, churches and political affiliations to at least somewhat resemble the demographic make up of their communities. Consistent with this trend, those who are interested in politics and are conservative may not join the Democrats after attending a mostly (or all) white GOP meeting, they’re increasingly going to be leery of joining a party that is sorely lacking in diversity, or whose leaders could care less about shutting the door in the faces of one-third of the state's population.
Time and time again, the support of the GOP grassroots for advancing black candidates for elected and party offices proves they aren’t racist and know the GOP needs to reach out and become more conclusive. As the actions of Dawson, McMaster and others run counter to those efforts, it's time for grassroots Republicans to insist their leaders do better, or step aside in favor of those who will make the GOP more welcoming to new constituencies. Given the recent strong performance racked up by Obama in South Carolina, as well as the slowly shrinking GOP legislative majority, there may not be much time to act before the Democrats are once more running the show in South Carolina.
We’ve got a lot more to say on this issue. Stay tuned for our next posting on this issue ...