No, That "U-S-A" Chant at the Republican National Convention Wasn't About Race

PHOTO: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30, 2012.

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TAMPA, Fla. — You may have seen this video floating around the web of a chaotic scene on the floor of the Republican National Convention Tuesday.

That's Zori Fonalledas, a Republican committeewoman from Puerto Rico, getting ready to nominate House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as convention chairman, as BuzzFeed reported Tuesday.

Fonalledas took the podium just as a controversy was breaking out on the floor. Allies of libertarian Republican presidential candidate were furious at Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for calling a vote to unseat delegates committed to Paul.

Right as Fonalledas began to speak (in accented English), some started chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"The gentelady from Puerto Rico has her report … Please give her the respect," Priebus said after the chanting died down.

Harper's covered the incident in a post titled "A Troubling Incident on the Convention Floor":

A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.

The story quickly caught fire in Latino and mainstream outlets alike.

That interpretation would fit nicely into the narrative of the Republicans problems appealing to Latinos. But there's just one problem: that's not what happened.

Allies of Paul were chanting "seat them now" and "boo," preventing business from proceeding before Fonalledas took the podium. So Romney delegates decided to drown out the Paul supporters with their own chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Ask yourself: why would delegates who conceivably supported the actions of Priebus and the RNC — of which Fonalledas is a member — try to drown out their own allies with a "U-S-A!" chant? I saw the chaos develop myself here in Tampa and I didn't think for a second that delegates were going nativist on the Puerto Rican official.

Remember, the booing and all around chaos had already broken out before Fonalledas opened her mouth. Do you think the rabble-rousers even knew she was from Puerto Rico?

Yes, there has been a vigorous debate this week over the Republican Party's ability to appeal to minorities, including Latinos. But this incident should not be a part of that discussion because it has absolutely nothing to do with Puerto Rico or race.

"During today's Republican Convention Committee Reports, the Ron Paul followers exercised their right to free speech and protested the report by the Committee on Credentials. The Report by the Chairwoman of the Permanent Organization Committee followed. The protesters continued their boisterous protest of the Credentials Report which spilled over to the rest of the proceedings,"the RNC said in a statement. "To be clear, the attempt to disrupt the proceedings had to do with the report, not the Puerto Rico National Committeewoman. Puerto Rico and its delegation play a very important role in this Convention, and are an integral partner in the National Committee."

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