Politics & Policy

Diverse Field

The Republicans have a nice spread.

Detroit –With the Henry Ford Museum as a backdrop, another Michigan favorite son — Mitt Romney — submitted his impressive resume for the job of president of the United States here this week. As a candidate boasting degrees in law and business, and a wildly successful career that includes stints as a CEO, investor, Olympic Games president, and governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s foray into the presidential race should have brought headlines celebrating an applicant with such a diverse background.

But the national media’s definition of diversity does not include Mitt Romney’s rainbow of accomplishments.

After weeks of lead headlines about “diversity” candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Romney’s entry received cursory coverage in the daily media. Liberals may dismiss Middle America as “flyover country,” but, ironically, flyover country is also “Gannett country” — home to a good chunk of America’s biggest (by far) newspaper chain that feeds its readership a decidedly liberal, blue-state brand of journalism. As a consequence, flyover country is getting a hearty dose of coastal political doctrine in the early days of Campaign ’08.

Like the Democratic party, the “diversity” mantra is central to Gannett’s mission, which it preaches through a newspaper empire running from Phoenix to Des Moines to Detroit to Louisville to Nashville. On any given day, millions of Middle America readers have two newsprint choices on their street corner: a local Gannett paper or Gannett’s USA Today. Diversity is an industry-wide faith (the infamous Jayson Blair was cultivated under the New York Times diversity requirements), but nowhere is it practiced more zealously than Gannett. Diversity rules Gannett’s newsrooms. There are hiring quotas for underrepresented minorities and women page layouts; page layouts, where a percentage of all stories and photos on each page have to meet a diversity formula; and even in the content itself, where sources are “mainstreamed” — that is, a minority voice must be quoted in every story.

It’s no surprise then, that the 2008 presidential race is being defined in Gannett country in terms of its “racial and gender” diversity.

“‘08 race for president a winner on diversity,” declared the lead A1 headline in a Jan. 21 Detroit Free Press story about the Democratic field. Let’s review the top three candidates:

‐ a lawyer who served in the Senate.

Now for the three Republican frontrunners:

‐ a lawyer who served as associate attorney general, 1981-1983; U.S. attorney for New York South District, 1983-1989, prosecuted major organized crime and Wall Street insider trading; served as New York City mayor, 1994-2001; named Time’s Man of the Year, 2001 for his leadership in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City; founded an investment and consulting firm, 2004.

Clearly, the Republican candidates bring more diversity to the job of president and commander-in-chief. But, in the media lexicon, “diversity” only counts for race and gender. Thus, to quote CNN, the Democrats boast the most “historically diverse field of contenders” because it includes Clinton and Obama (the third is John Edwards). The GOP candidates (McCain, Romney, Giuliani), by contrast, are dismissed as “white men.”

But diversity is much more than skin color and a Y chromosome. It is class, it is religion, geographical background, education, life experience.

And it is ideas. All three Democrat frontrunners are liberals in lockstep with their party’s platform.

Not so the GOPers. McCain is a well-known firebrand who bucks his party on tax and environmental issues.  As a Republican governor in the bluest of states, Romney (the first Mormon vying for president, by the way) was noted for his bipartisan achievements (some of which will be unpopular in a national primary). And Giuliani is an outspoken heretic on the party’s abortion agenda.

Yes, race and gender matter. All voters should be proud that a black and a woman — representing Americans denied basic rights until the 20th century – are contenders for America’s top job. But for a truly diverse choice of applicants to the White House, Republicans have a genuine claim.

– Henry Payne is a writer and editorial cartoonist for the Detroit News.


The Latest