Tuesday, August 14, 2007

GOP: Giving up on African-Americans?

The National Association of Black Journalists met last week in Las Vegas. That fact alone is hardly news.

Nor should it be news that Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton showed up. After all, Democrats seem to be at their best when they pander for black votes.

But the absence of any of the Republican presidential hopefuls was of more than passing interest because it fuels the perception that the GOP has given up on black voters.

I am continually amazed at how the modern day Republican party seems to have forgotten its civil rights heritage.

Racism and conservatism don't mix. Civil rights is a core conservative value – more importantly, a core Republican value – that some latter-day Republicans seem to have difficulty embracing.

When President Kennedy originally proposed civil rights legislation, many congressional Republicans attacked it as too weak and vowed to rewrite it. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never have seen the light of day had Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois not marshaled most Republican senators to terminate the Dixiecrat filibuster aimed at killing the bill.

Former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, jr., notes that the federal judges appointed by President Eisenhower were, in the pre-Civil Rights Act days, often the only recourse available to blacks during their struggle for equality.

There are times when some people who profess to represent my party – the party of Lincoln – for inexplicable and inexcusable reasons seem to reject our rich civil rights heritage and, in so doing, have fueled a misimpression that the Democratic party exclusively is on the side of African-Americans. This isn't just wrong -- it's stupid.

Instead of pandering to black voters, Republican candidates need to show them that they offer the best alternative. I suspect most black voters would appreciate being treated as equals and not as an immature class that needs rescuing by Democrats. But insulting black voters by ignoring them isn't the way for the GOP to distinguish itself.

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