The GOP Must Choose: Rush Limbaugh or Minority Voters

The talk radio host is the voice of a coalition totally oblivious to how its racially-charged rhetoric sounds.

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Rush Limbaugh is confused.

He just can't understand why the Republican Party has so much trouble with blacks, Hispanics and women. Here's how he put it on his nationally syndicated radio show, channeling the way that a lot of conservatives are feeling after looking at the demographic breakdown of Election 2012:

We have achieved, brilliant, highly accomplished African-Americans, blacks, Hispanics, you name it, throughout the Republican Party. They serve in office. Many of them are CEOs. It doesn't count. It doesn't count in the media. It doesn't count in the Democrat Party [sic]. It doesn't count with Obama voters about whom it is said that stuff matters most. It doesn't count. Why not? Why, putting it somewhat coarsely, why doesn't the Republican Party get credit for Condoleezza Rice?  Why doesn't the Republican Party get credit for Marco Rubio? Why doesn't the Republican Party get credit for Suzanne Martinez?

How is it that Michele Bachmann, a highly achieved woman, barely, barely ekes out reelection, and Jesse Jackson Jr. at the Mayo Clinic going through everything he's a going through, wins in a landslide? I could throw these examples up to you all afternoon. Why don't those people, why don't the Marco Rubios, the Allen Wests -- what a great man.  What a great American. Allen West, what a great role model. Clarence Thomas. Herman Cain. None of it counts. Don't tell me the Republican Party doesn't have outreach.  We do.  But what are we supposed to do now?  In order to get the Hispanic or Latino vote, does that mean open the borders and embrace the illegals?  I want you to think about this.  Is that what this means? Is that what the Republican establishment means?  We've gotta reach out to Hispanics, is that what they mean? If we're not getting the female vote, do we become pro-choice?  Do we start passing out birth control pills?  Is that what we have to do?

There's no single way to make the Republican Party more appealing to blacks and Hispanics. But talk like this never ceases to amaze me with its incredible lack of self-awareness. Just what is it that Republicans like Limbaugh have to do? Here are a few useful changes that the most popular conservative entertainer in America could make to stop turning off so many black voters:

1) Stop saying things like, "Why doesn't the Republican Party get credit for Condoleezza Rice?"

2) Stop the shameless race-baiting, like telling listeners, "Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,' and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white."

3) Understand that when you commission a song called "Barack the Magic Negro" for your radio show, the average black person is going to take offense. And that if you pretend to be surprised when they do take offense, no one will believe you.

4) If you (or any other famous conservative) gets a gig doing commentary for a professional football league, probably best not to use the forum to air your pet theories about how the media coddles black quarterbacks because it is made up of guilty whites who want them to succeed.

5) Another thing you probably shouldn't say is, "Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." Admittedly, you didn't say this on an NFL telecast, but it's actually offensive in any setting.

6) Any gains you may make in the black community may be jeopardized if you once again muse, "Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?"

7) As you try to understand Obama's presidency on your show, it may be a good idea to avoid reading pieces with titles like "Obama, The African Colonial" aloud, then concluding that Obama is "more African in his roots than he is American" and is "behaving like an African colonial despot."

8) Given your track-record of quotes like the ones previously discussed, it's probably best to avoid jokes such as, "Barack Obama has picked up another endorsement: Halfrican-American actress Halle Berry."

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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