Young’s comments served as the latest wake-up call for Republicans in their nascent effort to woo a more diverse cross-section of America.
The message: whatever effort they make toward modernizing their brand, there will always be a few Archie Bunkers out there — people, like the lead character in the 70′s sitcom “All in the Family,” who are unconcerned with or unwilling to moderate their tone. And these days more than in the past, their offhand remarks can derail the most carefully orchestrated PR campaign.
Rep. Young is an old man, turning 80 this year. A few weeks ago he celebrated the start of his 31st year in the U.S. Congress.
An old man saying “we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes” is like old white person saying “I was raised by a colored woman.” Sure, it makes you wince. But such uses usually get a pass — as they should — because we understand that older people come from a different place and time.
According to the Census Bureau, about 6 percent of Alaska's population is Hispanic and just 3 percent is black. And Alaska is among the most Republican states in the union, according to a Gallup report issued last year.
Too many House Republicans have districts like Young's, dominated by narrow, single-note, ideology-driven constituencies who see an ever expanding "them" threatening the heritage of a slowing shrinking "us."
Young sometimes says and does some outrageous things and nobody will ever accuse him over being overly sensitive. But ... he’ll likely have that seat, a version of the Smithsonian chair, for as long as he wants. Alaska has chosen to keep him there because, just like Archie, though he sometimes says stupid things, he’s more than his gaffes.
Will this remark matter in Alaska? He's probably better for Alaska - and the country - than some of the ideologues in the Alaska Republican party who might challenge him in the primaries. But the Republican faithful won't be all that upset with his comment itself, except that it might alienate Hispanic voters.
[Young] kind of reminds me of that crumpled uncle that still calls African-Americans ‘’negroes” and only progressed to calling them “coloreds” after Obama ‘s re-election. You know the kind that asks your Asian friends with MBAs about the starch on his shirts and why their people can’t get his Ming Chow Palace carryout order correct.
Being in his 21st term in Congress, and having been under federal investigation over the last 6 years for everything from earmark spending to bribery to questionable campaign contributions, Young’s expiration date is up.
It’s going to take more than a new suit and tie. When it comes to racial issues, the Republican Party reminds me of a guy that has bad breath but insists the reason he can’t get a date is because he needs better clothes. No pal, it’s not how you dress it up, it’s what comes out of your mouth that is turning women away. When Alaska Representative Don Young broke out his “wetback” comment earlier this week, the GOP leadership was quick to condemn him and was very public about doing so. But again, this problem in the party won’t be covered up by putting on some new threads because everyone can still smell the lingering stench of bigotry in the party.