Tuesday night, at a debate for a Senate seat in Indiana, incumbent Joe Donnelly made what the Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz calls a “cringeworthy” mistake. Asked “How, if elected, will you commit to bringing diversity into your leadership and senior staffing?” Donnelly boasted that he’s been there, done that.
Here is the text of the money part of his answer, but readers are urged to view the video to get the full impact of the senator’s cadence.
Our state director is Indian American [long pause], but he does an amazing job. Our director of all constituent services, she’s African American [long pause], but she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine.
Perhaps realizing he had said something that would be taken in a way unintended, Donnelly enlarged upon his thought, managing only to make things worse.
It isn’t their race or their religion. It’s the incredible person that they are.
When asked about his comment after the debate, Donnelly said he meant to say and, not but, but that wouldn’t have changed the message drastically. He was still calling out individuals by race and seeming to affirm that they were just as competent as white people.
In introducing this act of blatant racism, Itkowitz advises readers that Donnelly is a “conservative” Democrat because God forbid one of Claire McCaskill’s “crazy” Democrats dared to utter something so insensitive.
The incident highlights the silly games we are required to play here in twenty-first-century America. Yes, hire a person for a job based on satisfying a quota rather than merit but don’t act surprised if he does it well.
One of the other candidates on stage, libertarian Lucy Brenton, attempted to answer the same, frankly dopey question by suggesting that it’s time to move beyond race and sex, but the Post columnist dismissed her answer as not “exactly artful either.”