Tuesday, July 7, 2009

All night, she was a Young Republican

Think before you post. It's not 'one to grow on', but it's brilliant in its simplicity. We've so many wonderful tools and apps that allow us to spew crazy brilliance without much delay between thought and expression, it's overwhelming. And most of us, even I, pump out impulsive notions that occur to us through avenues such as Facebook, Twitter with alarming alacrity, never stopping think about, as Men At Work once succinctly put it 'the implications/of diving in too deep/and possibly the complications."

That's certainly true of Audra Shay who, at the age of 38 is pushing the boundaries of Junior Chamber membership, much less the Vice Chairmanship of the Young Republicans. According to The Daily Beast, Shay responded to a post on her Facebook page, saying that America needed to be reclaimed from 'coons' and 'illegals', with 'you tell them... lol.'

Shay has countered that she was not responding directly to that post, but to a previous post by the same individual, a fact the Daily Beast disputes based on the time that passed between postings. She removed the exchange from her Facebook page (which you can find around the web in the form of screen shots). She posted a subsequent Facebook update saying she would not condone t such racially disparaging remarks. Yet she raised suspicions by defriending Facebook colleagues who challenged her on her inexcusable post.

Shay, it should be noted, is a front runner for the chair of the Young Republicans, a position that will be filled this Saturday. Naturally, she's made her apologies for her comments, but it is worth asking how much that was motivated by the need to save face versus genuine contrition. Her attempt to divert attention from her actions by accusing her YR rivals of political attacks suggests she made her statements out of necessity.

Any such suspicions are damaging for her and for the Republicans, given similar high profile racial insensitivities and slurs committed in recent weeks by individuals such as Rusty DePass, Sherri Goforth and Chip Saltzman. Shay's thoughtlessness only serves to reinforce negative perceptions people have that the Republican party's brand of politics are unfavorable to anyone who is not white, straight or affluent.

Given that Shay undermined her best possible chance at redemption - a straight and genuine apology - by deflecting attention, the best possible action she could take to protect her reputation, and that of her party, is to resign. Any action she would take, any comment she could make, as chair of the YR is going to be scrutinized in light of this incident. Media interest will ensure that the focus this weekend will be on her suitability, GOP racial issues and anything but the election of the new YR chair.

This is supposed to be a time of rebuilding for the Republicans, a chance to reach out and reengage Americans, an opportunity to build the kind of support necessary to win the next election. Like any organization, the party can't move ahead so long as its members perpetuate longstanding negative perceptions.

It'll be interesting to see how this story plays out, and the PR/communications efforts that Shay and the YR undertake to mitigate the damage resulting from her insensitivity, to build integrity and trust, to save face, as it were. I think it won't be easy and any attempt, however sincere, is going to be met with skepticism. Regardless, it's one more timely reminder to always think before you post. The political scandal you prevent may be your own.

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