Chris Christie and Ann Romney may have been the main show, but two earlier speakers made plain a major tension pulling the GOP in different directions.
TAMPA -- The Republican National Convention's first evening session paired two speakers who represent opposing poles of hope and fear within today's GOP: the impressive daughter of Haitian immigrants who is seeking to become a representative from Utah, and an actress who has sought to tarnish President Obama by questioning if the Hawaii-born son of a Kenyan father and American mother is in fact constitutionally eligible to hold the office of the presidency.
In their remarks could be found the central tension in Mitt Romney's Republican Party, a group that knows it must diversify if it is to keep pace with a changing American -- but still contains the forces of reaction made nervous by that very change.
Mia Love in many way represents the highest promise of the GOP, a distant but not inconceivable future where the party attracts more than token black membership or votes and provides a warm welcome to the hard-working children of immigrants who gave up their culture, their language and their extended family for the far from easy task of making a new life in America. Still under 40, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, would be the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican should she win. She was introduced in a lovely video (below) that keyed up what could have been significant remarks launching her on the national stage, had she had any kind of time to speak. Instead, her remarks were kept extremely brief.
Love was followed by Janine Turner, a blonde former actress with Fox News-style makeup and a radio show who, the Internet tells me, was a star in the 1980s and 1990s on television shows such as Northern Exposure. Turner ripped into Obama for his "gimme gimme" mentality, the first in a line of speakers that extended to former senator Rick Santorum and former Democrat Artur Davis to suggest that Obama wants to give the lazy people something for nothing.
"Patrick Henry said, 'Give me liberty or give me death.' Today Obama enables an entitlement society that says, 'Give me liberty and gimme, gimme!'" Turner said.
"Why? Because Democrats depend on dependence," she continued. "America was not born with a gimme, gimme mentality, and American liberty cannot survive with a gimme, gimme mentality. America was built with her hands at work, not with her hands out."
Turner gained notoriety recently for her birther beliefs and questioning Obama's right to serve in office. In a PJ Media article, "Reasoning 'Kenyan Born'," published with the subtitle, "Obama's author bio leaves us three possibilities. None of them reflect well on the president," Turner argues:
The irony is that the left, with its desire to flatline life, and the right, with its desire to be quietly conservative and politically correct, are colliding in a ruin of republicanism.
Case in point -- the question of where President Obama was born. This question is permeating the web in a radical way with the emergence of Obama's former author bio, which states he was "born in Kenya." This bio was a part of Obama's persona until he began to run for president in 2007.
Yet, according to the left, anyone who is curious about the "Kenyan born" revelation is a racist. Meanwhile, the right, riddled with fear of being called racist, is clamming up with political correctness. Where is the reason in either approach? There isn't any.
Obama manipulates the racist card often by stating that it is hard to get elected with a name like "Barack Hussein Obama." What does that type of comment imply? It implies that most Americans are racist. He stabs the arrow deeper into the American heart he promised to heal.
Yet the law of the land, the United States Constitution, is very clear that the president of the United States should be American born. If this were a legal case in court, the book bio stating that Obama was "born in Kenya" would be taken into consideration. Yet if the American people question why a document would say something like this, suddenly they are racist, birthers, ignorant, or not being politically correct....
It is reasonable to wonder why Obama's bio would say such a thing.
Love and Turner were joined in the procession of speakers Tuesday night by the female Hispanic first lady of Puerto Rico (Lucé Vela Gutierrez),
the female Hispanic governor of New Mexico (Susana Martinez), a male Hispanic Senate candidate from Texas (Ted Cruz), the Indian-American governor of South Carolina (Nikki Haley) and the working class son of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie. It was an evening to showcase GOP diversity while delivering a stinging rebuke to Obama for his approach to government programs. Even Romney's wife Ann cast herself as the descendent of immigrants, as did Santorum.
Perhaps the admixture of diversity and attacks that many have said are racially charged or racially coded -- such as accusations that Obama has "gutted" welfare reform's work requirements, though this is not in fact the case -- is a way for the GOP to not just deflect the critique but reject the charge of race-card playing outright.
"Mia, your mother and I never took a handout. You will not be a burden to society. You will give back," Love likes to quote her father as having said.
It means something different when she says something like this -- espousing the up-by-your-own-bootstraps philosophy so common among immigrants and their children -- than when someone like Turner attacks Obama for being for "gimme gimme."
And it means something different for the future of the GOP, too.