Having diversity in decision making bodies isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s often the smart thing to do as well.
Recently the College Republicans decided to roll out a series of web ads that feature a young woman trying on wedding dresses as a way to try and sell Republican candidates for the upcoming midterm elections. The ads were presumably designed to target young female voters but based on the reactions, which run the gambit from feedback along the line of “this was a stupid idea” to “this is pretty offensive”, I think it’s fair to say that with these ads we cross the line from mistake to fiasco.
So what’s going on here? Well assuming that these ads were made with the intention helping Republicans get elected, and as Jonathan Bernstein pointed out that assumption might be wrong, the culprit might be just a lack of diversity inside the GOP, especially within the groups and staffers who approved spending money on this thing.
Diversity, or the lack thereof, is a major topic in our national discourse these days. We talk about it when discussing TV shows, Titan’s of the business world, and life in Silicone Valley. And to be sure there are strong moral arguments for why there should be more diversity in a variety of aspects of American life. But one of the strongest arguments for diversity in decision making bodies is a pretty practical one: bringing in different views is going to help you make better decisions and can prevent dressgate style PR disasters.
Now to be fair the College Republican National Committee is chaired by a woman, but that probably just goes to show that while diversity might help you avoid disaster it’s hardly a fail safe when it comes to preventing bungled ad campaign. Especially in the world of politics, after all not a whole lot of people vote for candidates whose rhetoric they find offensive. Ta-Nehisi Coates summed this up pretty well a few years ago:
I’ve said this before but conservatives often perceive liberal attachment to diversity as a kind of “everyone’s a winner” cuddle party, where we sit around exchanging rice-cakes and hating on the military. But the great strength of diversity is it forces you into a room with people who have experiences very different from your own…
If you are not around people who will look at you like you are crazy when you make stupid claims about other people’s experiences, then you tend to keep saying stupid things about other people’s experiences.
Politicians of all stripes make mistakes and say dumb or unhelpful things, that’s just part of the game. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Obama learned his lesson about criticizing rural white voters, while Republicans continue to go on about “legitimate rape” or continue to make ads that end up offending the people their trying to reach out to. After all if nobody is in the meeting to tell you your ideas are bad, you are that much more likely go with the bad idea.
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