The Republican National Committee released a new website on Tuesday that goes to great lengths to depict the party as open to minority interests.
The most obvious example comes on the "Heroes" page where the RNC pinpoints 16 figures who were "Patriots: American Heroes & Famous Republicans." The list includes seven African-Americans, one Hispanic-American, and four women. Only four white men are included, three of whom had direct ties to the advancement of civil rights in America. Former President Abraham Lincoln made the list, as did former Justice Frank Johnson, who was instrumental in court decisions that helped end segregation in the South. Finally, there was former Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who helped write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But the GOP may have muddled is message by including individuals who would scoff at today's Republican Party.
As pointed out by a Democratic source, the inclusion of baseball star Jackie Robinson on the list seems particularly egregious. The former Dodger, who broke baseball's color barrier, was far from a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Robinson's ties to the GOP seemed more driven by a personal admiration for Nelson Rockefeller -- the New Yorker who would end up being vice president under Gerald Ford -- than it was core ideological convictions. In his biography, Robinson said that as the Republican Party leadership tilted towards Barry Goldwater conservatives, he began to have "a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler's Germany."
Writing on page 340 of the autobiography, "I Never Had It Made", Robinson went so far as to insist that he be called an independent, "since I've never identified myself with one party or another in politics." In 1968 he campaigned for Hubert Humphrey.
"I was not as sold on the Republican party as I was on the governor," Robinson wrote of Rockefeller. "Every chance I got, while I was campaigning, I said plainly what I thought of the right-wing Republicans and the harm they were doing. I felt the GOP was a minority party in term of numbers of registered voters and could not win unless they updated their social philosophy and sponsored candidates and principles to attract the young, the black, and the independent voter. I said this often from public, and frequently Republican, platforms. By and large Republicans had ignored blacks and sometimes handpicked a few servile leaders in the black community to be their token "niggers." How would I sound trying to go all out to sell Republicans to black people? They're not buying. They know better."
"I admit freely that I think, live, and breathe black first and foremost. That is one of the reasons I was so committed to the governor and so opposed to Senator Barry Goldwater. Early in 1964 I wrote a Speaking Out piece for The Saturday Evening Post. A Barry Goldwater victory would insure that the GOP would be completely the white man's party. What happened at San Francisco when Senator Goldwater became the Republican standard-bearer confirmed my prediction."
"I wasn't altogether caught of guard by the victory of the reactionary forces in the Republican party, but I was appalled by the tactics they used to stifle their liberal opposition," Robinson wrote of that 1964 convention. "I was a special delegate to the convention through an arrangement made by the Rockefeller office. That convention was one of the most unforgettable and frightening experiences of my life. The hatred I saw was unique to me because it was hatred directed against a white man. It embodied a revulsion for all he stood for, including his enlightened attitude toward black people."