Indiana Republicans Declare ‘Black Lives Matter’ at Convention

by June 22, 2020

That’s a big shift. But judge the Indiana Republican Party on what it does next.

The Indiana Republican Party is experiencing an identity crisis.

It is emphatically gesturing to its origin story — the party of Lincoln! — while flailing over the urgent need to initiate long-overdue racial reconciliation even as the highest-ranking national Republican, as well as much of the party’s voting bloc, do not consider it necessary.

That tension produced a remarkable moment during the state Republican convention Thursday. Alex Choi, a member of the Zionsville Town Council, was asked about the party’s role in racial equality.

Participants in a nearby counter-protest pass by the Black Lives Matter event, honking their horns and displaying flags during a moment of silence. A few hundred demonstrators gathered in Greenwood as part of the Black Lives Matter movement Friday, June 12, 2020, for a protest.

“I think we play a great, big role in this,” Choi began. “We have to be very courageous in approaching this and make sure that we take a hold of the responsibilities given to us.”

Then came the important part — an attempt to recalibrate, or at least repackage, the cultural identity of state Republicans.

“We need to know,” Choi continued, “that Black lives matter.”

Choi did not appear to use that phrase for dramatic effect, but its utterance during an event targeted toward Indiana Republicans marks a notable shift in rhetoric. It is difficult to imagine an Indiana Republican using a high-profile speaking role to declare that Black lives matter any time before now.

The plethora of national crises in recent months gave the state Republican Party a unique opportunity to market itself in prime time. Republicans, like Democrats earlier this month, transformed their historically in-person convention into a slickly produced hour-and-a-half television show because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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