If Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and John McCain can’t stand up to Tavis Smiley, than how can they stand up to the terrorists?
The “leading” GOP candidates refusal to speak to African-Americans, as it was with Latinos, seems in one sense to really be a grave miscalculation–not for the GOP generally (which it is with Latinos but not with African-Americans), but with their own chances.
Giuliani’s race-baiting in New York City might make him an exception, but the other three front-runners don’t have a strong profile on race issues, and instead could use the occasion to stand up for conservative principles like opposing affirmative action, long mandatory minimum prison sentences, Social Security privatization, tax cutting etc. The audience won’t like it and might even boo, but that would help the candidates with their primary base, as well as give them free TV coverage that I think would be helpful. (“Fred Thompson isn’t afraid to take on liberal interest groups like African-Americans” or some such.).
So why are they boycotting?
It’s quite possible that what is involved here is really more sinister. The GOP base is so prejudiced that even discussing issues with African-Americans and Latinos is seen as a sell-out. The point is not that you oppose someone’s interests: you have to delegitimize them as a political force. It is essentially an accompaniment to Karl Rove’s disenfranchisement strategy: after all, if a group of people isn’t worth speaking to, then it isn’t worth letting them vote, either.
Rove’s “faith-based” charity initiative was never a policy proposal: it was an attempt to funnel money to certain urban ministers in the hopes of getting enough African-American GOP votes, or at least diminishing turnout, to allow the Republicans to carry some critical swing states. When that failed, disenfranchisement was Plan B. This is just another part of the puzzle.