GOP congressman uses anti-Latino racial slur

Updated
 
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)
Associated Press

In the wake of Republican defeats in the 2012 elections, party leaders came to a few specific conclusions. They wouldn’t change the party’s policy agenda, but they would focus on rhetoric and choosing better words to communicate the GOP’s vision, while also making minority outreach a priority.

Of course, the two goals are sometimes intertwined. Perhaps, the theory goes, the GOP would have more success with minority communities if the party communicated with these voters more effectively.

But at this point, Republicans actually seem to be going backwards.

Rep. Don Young’s use of an ethnic slur to describe the California farmworkers who picked tomatoes for his father threatens to become an embarrassment for a Republican Party trying to court Latino voters.

In a radio interview in Ketchikan Tuesday, Young, R-Alaska, called the workers “wetbacks.” […] “I used to own - my father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

The Alaska Republican later issued a statement, clarifying, “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.” The statement did not include an apology.

Just so we’re clear, it’s 2013. Republicans were recently reminded not to use words like “aliens” and “anchor babies” when referring to Hispanics, but apparently that advice was not all-encompassing enough, since we still have at least one congressman using the word “wetback” – on the air – as if it were perfectly acceptable.

And it’s not just Young.

The Alaska congressman’s comments coincide with another Republican congressman, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) made inappropriate remarks about Native Americans, for which he apologized.

It also comes on the heels of Republicans using disturbing anti-gay rhetoric; a South Carolina lawmaker saying, “It is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now”; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) comparing Middle Eastern men to monkeys; a Republican mega-donor saying voters in “center cities” don’t count; and Sarah Palin resorting to “shuck and jive” references.

And don’t even get me started about Republicans talking about women.

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging it exists, and as best as I can tell, the Republican National Committee has done so. The party doesn’t want to change any of its policies related to minority communities and women, and it continues to be run by a party infrastructure as white as the driven snow, but GOP leaders at least seem interested in saying fewer stupid things in public. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if some Republicans made a point to distance themselves from Young throughout the day.

But Young’s comments, coupled with all of the other offensive remarks from other Republicans in recent weeks and months, points to a party with a serious and systemic problem.

Don Young and Racism

GOP congressman uses anti-Latino racial slur

Updated