By andrea Grossman
Just as the Republicans did at their national convention, Democrats this week will take the opportunity of the convention to market their party as unified and diverse.
But Democrats, who scoff at the primetime exposure that was showered on GOP minorities, say their effort is more sincere.
“When you looked out into the audience [of the Republican National Convention], there was a very small proportion of minorities, especially African-Americans,” said Rudolph C. Cone of Hebron, a delegate to this week’s Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.
“But [the Republicans] had every on of them on screen to give the illusion that they are diverse,” Cone said.
Bettye Ridgely, a Democratic convention delegate from Baltimore County, said one convention was not enough to convince her that the Republicans are serious about reaching out to minorities.
“I feel as if you have to do this prior to an election,” said Ridgely. “You can’t wait until someone is running for president.”
Mary Jo Neville, vice chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party and a convention delegate, said the GOP’s outreach campaign rang false with her too.
“I think a leopard doesn’t change its spots,” she said. “The Republican Party is what it is.”
But while Maryland’s Democrats might take issue with the Republicans’ diversity drive, they don’t deny that the GOP convention two weeks ago rejuvenated the party.
Vice President Al Gore, the Democrat’s likely presidential nominee, “has a lot to do to win,” said Maureen Lamb, a member of the Maryland delegation in Los Angeles. “We are going to have to work hard to win.”
Republicans seemed to know they had nailed the convention, even before they went home. Maryland Republican Delegation Chairwoman Ellen Sauerbrey was glowing as she waited to hear presidential nominee George W. Bush speak on the last night of that convention.
She and others — some of whom were coached on the message they were to deliver to media about the GOP convention — gleefully compared the Philadelphia convention to the 1980 convention that nominated Ronald Reagan to his first run.
“This is so much like the Reagan convention in 1980 with the party being really energized, united,” Sauerbrey said. “I just feel that kind of spirit here. It wasn’t here the past two conventions.”
Republicans also took pains to point out minority delegates, both in their delegations and in featured roles during the convention itself. That left a sour taste with most Maryland Democrats.
“The Republican convention was a charade, a masquerade party,” said Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis, a delegate to this week’s convention. “And it will be our job to make sure that the American electorate understands which party and which presidential candidates have been working most in their interests.”
Charles Baum, a Democratic convention alternate from Severna Park, sees the issue in a less-partisan manner.
“Conventions are [no] longer for decision making, but for parties’ showcasing themselves during prime time,” Baum said. “I don’t expect the Democratic convention will be much different.”