When the Republican Party released the list of its National Convention speakers Friday, I greedily scrolled through as fast as my fingers could take me. And I was not disappointed.
Sure, Donald Trump is a businessman, but he became a household name by being an entertainer. (Quick: Give me five names of other major real estate developers. Were you able to? Congratulations, you are in real estate.)
So this year's convention, as expected, has more wild cards and flash than 2012 did. All that convention gave us was Clint Eastwood addressing an empty chair and human noodle Mitt Romney talking about energy policy.
But this year, we've got Natalie Gulbis, better known for her appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue than for being the 484th-ranked female golfer in the world. Now, before you decry sexism, Italian American hunk Antonio Sabàto Jr. will also be speaking, and let us not forget that before he was a daytime television star and reality television contestant, he was an underwear model for Calvin Klein. So equal scores there. Then we've got controversial PayPal co-founder and Gawker lawsuit backer Peter Thiel. We've got Kimberlin Brown, who was a soap opera actress until she retired in 2003 and started an avocado farm. I don't totally get what these people mean to the Republican Party, but we're about to find out.
We've got no fewer than six members of the Trump family speaking, presumably to how awesome their dad/husband/self will be as president: Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Tiffany Trump, Melania Trump and Donald Trump. Oh, and don't forget Lynne Patton, vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.
This year's speaker slate is more creative than the succession of politicos who were trotted out in 2012. But the slate doesn't show a "big tent" party — a party that represents a coalition of people with diverse ideas and backgrounds — as clearly as the 2012 convention tried to.
The initial lineup published by the New York Times had only one person of color, Ted Cruz, who is half-white American and half-Cuban. This new list adds a handful more: Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, entrepreneur and television personality Pat Smith, Senate candidate Daryl Glenn, and Pastor Mark Burns, who are black; and Lisa Shin, an Asian American optometrist and founder of Korean-Americans for Trump. No other speakers of color are confirmed at this time.
The 2016 U.S. electorate will be the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. Yet Trump may have found himself in a tough spot securing speakers of color after a number of infamous racist comments, such as saying Mexico was sending "criminals" and "rapists" to the United States. Latinos will make up an estimated 12% of voters in this election, yet there are no Latino speakers at the Republican National Convention.
Trump has managed to secure several black speakers, even though he has said "laziness is a trait in blacks" and called a black American protester "absolutely disgusting" for saying "black lives matter."
Four years ago, then-House Speaker John A. Boehner said that Mitt Romney's low levels of support among black and Latino voters was problematic. "If we're going to be a national party, we've got to reach out, and that means showing up in their neighborhoods. It's a tall order, but it can be done," he said.
And, while Romney didn't do as well as they'd hoped with minorities at the polls, Republicans did manage to show racial and ethnic diversity on the convention stage. The nine Latino convention speakers included the first lady of Puerto Rico, Luce Vela Fortuno; Rep. Francisco Canseco of Texas, who addressed the audience in Spanish; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (now famously feuding with Trump); and Sher Valenzuela, a candidate for lieutenant governor in Delaware.
Then-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called these speakers "window dressing," saying "You can't just trot out a brown face and a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate." In the end, he was right; Latino voters chose Obama over Romney by 71% to 27%.
This year, Trump has neither symbolic nor substantive Latino support. He's isolated Asian Americans by imitating Indian and Chinese people in a derogatory manner, among other jabs. And given that less than 15% of black voters have identified as Republican or voted for Republican presidential candidates in the last fifty years, it might take more than five black speakers for Trump to turn his party's tides.
This year's Republican National Convention speaker slate is notable for being two things: super weird and super white. Tune in on Monday night to see two intimate apparel models and zero Latino people take the stage. Only in Trump's America.
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