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Diversity unwelcome

At a time when the Republican Party can’t raise money or attract top-tier recruits to run for office, the failure to attract minority candidates may seem a trivial concern. But the lack of diversity in current candidate ranks points to a dim future, as the party appears doomed to struggle just to retain a shrinking constituency mostly comprised of white Southern males.

The GOP claims just four Hispanic members of Congress, with no African Americans in their caucus. Their only governor of color is Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Democrats can claim three governors, five senators, and 68 representatives (41 African Americans, 22 Latinos, and five Asian-Pacific Islanders).

That’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.

And while Democratic candidates of color are running in races across the country, Republicans can’t claim a single top-tier minority candidate. Unless Alan Keyes is running somewhere (always a good bet), chances are they won’t even be able to lay claim to a fringe candidate this cycle.

This dramatic disparity is increasingly represented in the electorate as well. African Americans lean Democratic by a 90 percent margin, and should improve on that astonishing number with Barack Obama on the ballot.

While 44 percent of Latinos voted for George W. Bush in 2004, only 28 percent of them voted Republican in 2006, and that dropped to 23 percent in 2007. The GOP is losing ground with this demographic as the Latino share of the overall electorate grows steadily, from 6 percent in 2002 to a projected 10 percent in 2008. With Latino support for Republicans dropping so drastically, the situation is dire.

Yet what can Republicans really offer these constituencies? African Americans are watching conservatives trash Obama as un-American, a closet Muslim, a member of a supposedly “hateful” black church. The message sent? African Americans aren’t really Americans. Latinos, for their part, are quite cognizant of the GOP’s strong nativist streak and the hateful anti-immigrant efforts that terrorize and divide families in a culture in which the family is preeminent. In fact, Republican support for remittance and travel bans to Cuba are even costing it support among its traditional Cuban American allies, putting the GOP’s three South Florida Cuban American congressional seats at risk.

We are witnessing a Republican Party so bereft of ideas, so hampered by unpopular policy positions on everything from the war to the economy, so incapacitated by scandal and corruption, that it’s left with only one card to play:

“It’s the politics of identity — not necessarily racial or ethnic identity but identity as an American,” writes Mark Schmitt, a senior fellow at the New American Foundation, in an American Prospect cover story. “And we have already seen how that manifests, in McCain’s slogan [“The American President Americans Are Waiting For”], the politics of the flag pin, the e-mails charging that Obama doesn’t salute the flag, and the attempt to associate him with the anti-American politics of 1968, when he was 7 years old.”

Conservatives consider diversity a weakness. In his book Comeback, former Bush speechwriter David Frum explained, “Republicans have always been the party of American democratic nationhood” while Democrats “attract those who felt themselves in some way marginal to the American experience: ... intellectuals, Catholics, Jews, blacks, feminists, gays — people who identify with the ‘pluribus’ in the nation’s motto, ‘e pluribus unum.’”

As Schmitt points out, “In Frum’s Latin, ‘pluribus’ means ‘parasites,’ and he tells us helpfully, ‘As the nation weakens, Democrats grow stronger.’” Is it any wonder Republicans are incapable of attracting any candidates of color?

Short term, this failure is merely embarrassing. Long term, it’ll be catastrophic.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos .