[Updated below] The Republican National Committee, as part of its summer meeting, held an event in Boston yesterday to highlight the party’s “Rising Stars,” with a clear emphasis on diversity. The party’s base may be older, male, and overwhelmingly white, but when the RNC wanted to feature future stars, they picked four people – including two women, a Latina state lawmaker, and an African-American state lawmaker.
But perhaps the more interesting aspect of this story was a quote, not from one of the “Rising Stars,” but from the head of the RNC itself. Brett LoGiurato reported:
In condemning Rep. Steve King’s incendiary comments on immigration, RNC chairman Reince Priebus swept in his party’s presidential nominee, saying that talk of “self-deportation” was “horrific” and even “racist.” […]
“Using the word ‘self-deportation’ – it’s a horrific comment to make,” Priebus said, in a forceful rebuke. “I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When someone makes those comments, obviously, it’s racist.”
Is that so.
It’s certainly welcome news that the chair of the RNC considers “self-deportation” horrific and racist, but it also comes as quite a surprise. As recently as a year ago, Priebus helped oversee the completion of his party’s national platform, and guess what it said on immigration? “Republican delegates hammered out an immigration plank calling for tough border enforcement and opposing ‘any forms of amnesty’ for illegal immigrants, instead endorsing ‘humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily,’ a policy of self-deportation.”
As recently as October 2012, the presidential nominee of Priebus’ party was still defending “self-deportation” on national television. As recently as April 2013, a prominent House Republican was defending the concept, too.
If Priebus now considers this horrific and racist, I’m delighted, but I hope he’ll clarify his position a bit more. Does the RNC chair reject the policy or the use of the literal rhetorical phrase? Is Priebus offended by the idea of making undocumented immigrants’ lives so miserable that they’ll leave the country voluntarily, or does he support the policy while finding himself offended by the label?
Update: Business Insider and LoGiurato have changed their reporting in an important way. The report now quotes Priebus saying, ”Using the word ‘self-deportation’ – it’s a horrific comment to make. I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When a candidate makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us.” In other words, “racist” has been replaced with “hurts us.” The broader point stands – Priebus did use “horrific” – but the original report from Business Insider and LoGiurato included a key error.
Second Update: This morning, the Republican National Committee’s press office had confirmed the “racist” quote as accurate, which would seem to add some additional questions as to the RNC’s and Priebus’ attitudes on the subject.