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Racist Tea Party? GOP Welcomes Diverse Cast of Newcomers

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

After the 2006 midterm elections, many in the chattering class declared the GOP had been reduced to a “regional party” – white, male, and Southern. Since President Obama’s election in 2008, the Leftist mainstream media has worked diligently to paint much of the opposition to his policies as the bigoted and deranged spasms of a marginalized, racist conservative base. The tea party movement represented “racism, straight up” according to political philosopher Janeane Garofalo. Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Eugene Robinson, and Bob Herbert practically took turns writing weekly columns slandering conservatives using flagrant race baiting, including an embarrassing election-day screed from Robinson. Chris Matthews complained that the political Right was “monochromatic” for his taste. And the Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wondered aloud how anyone of Hispanic descent could possibly be a Republican. Then came the 2010 elections.

The midterm election not only busted the myth that the GOP is a regional party – seeing Republican gains in the Northeast, Midwest and West – it also puts to rest the notion that Republicans are a lily white party whose base won’t embrace a diverse slate of candidates. In eight prominent contests, Republicans nominated and elected excellent candidates and fine conservatives who also happen to be people of color:

Nevada Governor – In a deliciously ironic twist, a Hispanic Republican – Brian Sandoval – defeated Rory Reid, son of the very man who suggested that people like Sandoval don’t, or shouldn’t, exist. It wasn’t close: Sandoval dominated Rory Reid and secured a double-digit victory.

New Mexico Governor – Suzanna Martinez became the first female Hispanic Governor of a US State in history – from either party. She ran a disciplined campaign, torched her opponent with one of the most devastating attack ads of the entire cycle, and won by a substantial 8-point margin.

South Carolina Governor – Overcoming nasty rumors about her religion and alleged marital infidelity, Nikki Haley became America’s second Indian-American Governor. (The other, of course, is Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, also a Republican).

SC-01 – After JC Watts retired from Congress in 2002, the House Republican caucus lost its lone African-American member. Until last night. Republican Tim Scott, a strong conservative, won the open seat in South Carolina’s first Congressional District. He pulled off this feat in the deep south, and did so in a romp – winning by approximately 35 percentage points.

FL-22 – Another black Republican was elected to the House last night: Conservative superstar Col. Allen West. The Iraq War hero handily unseated Rep. Ron Klein, who threw the kitchen sink at West, but to no avail. When this race was called, supposedly “racist” tea partiers and grassroots conservatives rejoiced across the country.

WA-03 – Jaime Herrera chose not to highlight her Hispanic origins in her battle against Democrat Denny Heck for the open seat in Washington’s third Congressional District. She ran a very strong, issues-based campaign, and won comfortably.

ID-01 – Raul Labrador, a Puerto Rico-born attorney, pulled an upset victory over incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick in Idaho’s first Congressional District. Minnick tried to boost his bleeding poll numbers by airing a dishonest, racially charged ad during the final week of the race. The tactic seems to have backfired, resulting in Congressman Raul Labrador.

Florida Senate – Two words: Marco Rubio. The most celebrated rising star in the Republican Party after last night is freshly-minted Senator-elect Rubio, a dynamic Cuban-American conservative.

Close Calls: Hat tips are also in order for two outstanding House candidates who didn’t quite pull through this year: Ryan Frazier in CO-7, and Van Tran in CA-47.

In an ideal world, this sort of identity politics scorecard would be utterly unnecessary. Most Americans hope the 2010 elections, including the examples laid out above, will neutralize the “Right-wing racism” meme the Left has so eagerly cultivated. Perhaps the day has finally come when our politics can ignore skin color and focus on what really matters: Values, ideas, and character.

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