"Which of our Hispanic leaders would you consider to serve in your Cabinet?" A woman attending the last Republican debate in Florida asked this of the four Republican rivals.
Oh, for crying out loud! Ethnic-based Cabinet appointees? Do we still need to go out and "seek" people of a certain color or religion to show "fairness and inclusion"? What about considering the best people possible -- isn't that the only appropriate answer to that question?
But Republicans go all Democrat, all too often, in front of black and brown audiences. They say things to show how empathic they are, rather than promote their principles as beneficial to all, regardless of race or gender or ethnicity.
Look at the way former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum answered this Cabinet question. Obviously anticipating such a query, they spat out practically every Hispanic name they could think of short of the Frito Bandito.
Only one, libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said the right thing. Paul simply said he wanted someone who understands fiscal and monetary policy -- "Hispanic or otherwise." And Paul won't be the nominee.
The perception of Republicans as racist is joyfully promoted by Democrats like Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who said that Republicans "want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws." Meanwhile, Democrats have successfully airbrushed away their own sordid racist history. This includes the founding of the Ku Klux Klan, which many called "the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party." This includes opposing the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Yet today, by branding the GOP as the party of the racists, Democrats pull over 90 percent of the black vote in presidential elections.
A Republican elected official once asked me what he could do to improve his poll numbers in the black community. "As a private citizen," the frustrated politician said, "I donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for computers in schools. I make all the rounds at the right places in the inner city." Yet in elections he received little black support.
"I'll give you some advice, but you won't like it," I said.
"OK. Stop condescending. Stop apologizing. You can't out-warmth a Democrat. They're pros at showing minorities how much they 'care' by promising special programs or incentives that either don't work or make things worse.
"Say something like this: 'You are not a victim. Racism, sexism and homophobia are in full retreat in American life. Today, your fate is determined far more by what goes on in your home -- rather than what goes on in city hall.' Make the case that we all want clean streets, safe neighborhoods and competitive schools. Make the case that your agenda -- low taxes, less regulation and choice in schools -- empower individuals, no matter the race, to make their own choices.
"Say: 'I don't wake up saying what black or brown or white or yellow thing I intend to do today. We are Americans before we are members of a racial group or religion or ethnicity. And, if we want our prayers answered, let's get off our knees and work to make them come true."
The politician said, "I can't say that."
In a piece called "California's Demographic Revolution," Heather Mac Donald describes the result of a March 2011 poll on the unfavorable view California Hispanics have toward the Republican Party: "The top two reasons were that the party favored only the rich and that Republicans were selfish and out for themselves; Republican positions on immigration law were cited less often."
How does the GOP turn that around? Simply saying, "No, we're not selfish, we care," won't work. Make the case for choice in school and private accounts for Social Security. Explain how the liberal feel-good polices -- welfare, public housing, urban renewal, assigned government schools, minimum wage laws -- hurt the very groups Democrats claim to help. Argue that it is condescending, if not racist, to believe that certain people cannot compete because of their race.
President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, was asked whether "Negroes" should receive special race-based hiring to compensate for slavery and discrimination: "I think it is a mistake to begin to assign quotas on the basis of religion or race -- color -- nationality. ... On the other hand, I do think that we ought to make an effort to give a fair chance to everyone who is qualified -- not through a quota -- but just look over our employment rolls, look over our areas where we are hiring people and at least make sure we are giving everyone a fair chance. But not hard and fast quotas. ... We are too mixed, this society of ours, to begin to divide ourselves on the basis of race or color."
Kennedy said that 49 years ago. It's what Messrs. Romney, Santorum and Gingrich should say -- right now.