- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2000

We become captive of points of view we don't often hear as visitors arrive from all parts of the country to join us for the holidays. When a motley crew of old friends and family returns to celebrate the New Year we grit our teeth and bite our tongues, and grant them the mellow cheerfulness to speak their mind without confronting them with argument.

Tradition, love, friendship and the blood that's thicker than wine trumps partisanship. So do good manners (sometimes).

At one feast a disgruntled Democrat, for example, raises a glass with "Hail to the thief." Nary a Bushite rises to the bait. A Republican merely counters with a smug appeal to "All's well that ends well." A Democrat treats it as an observation for the year's end rather than a post-election sentiment.

Those more nostalgic cheer the lost causes of Bill Bradley, John McCain and Ralph Nader. They get a pass with a glass, too.

But one political leader rankles all but the most militant blacks in our midst. Everyone agrees that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had a right to protest on behalf of blacks whom he felt were unfairly treated in the voting in Florida, but most everyone agrees that his rhetoric is out of sync with the offense he challenged. He said and continues to say that the only way George W. could win was by using "Nazi tactics."

There's an honorable tradition of hyperbole in political rhetoric, but George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels only inflames further divisiveness between black and white. Jesse Jackson becomes increasingly irrational and even dangerous as a spokesman for blacks.

When he could focus on authentic successes such as Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state, and Candoleezza Rice, the first black woman to be national security adviser, he appeals instead to the lowest instincts of the people he leads. He takes as his own role model a klansman of a discredited era. Words have consequences. His ugly language excites vicious passions.

It's easy these days to criticize the likes of Louis Farrakhan, whose rhetoric is widely condemned for its blatant anti-Semitism and attacks on whites as subhuman, but Jesse Jackson continues to be a leader coddled by those who know better no matter how outrageous his rhetoric.

By charging the Republicans with Nazi tactics he suggests images of storm troopers. Such intemperance in an educated man does not flow from ignorance, which makes the offense even worse. His rhetoric lacks ameliorating appeals to real black heroes who are succeeding not only in sports and show biz, but in the arts, education, law and medicine.

Debra Dickerson, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, expresses concern over the single-minded thinking of blacks in America who refuse to accept the intellectual challenges raised by black Republicans. Instead these blacks create their own stereotypes. "Black Republicans are, oh, dear, Uncle Toms," she writes in The Washington Post, "a schoolyard taunt we refuse to outgrow that's meant to coerce conformity."

That's meant to coerce conformity is the crucial phrase here. It used to be that whites wouldn't let blacks off the plantation. Now it's blacks who oversee the intellectual plantation that limits constructive debate and the competition of ideas.

Miss Dickerson suggests that blacks treat Mr. Powell and Mrs. Rice like rebel children in a family where parents take no pride in their accomplishment because they don't use their power and influence precisely as parents think they should. This is a familiar lament found in immigrant families whose children have moved into wider circles outside their smaller ethnic group.

Blacks, of course, have a unique history in America and power has been harder to achieve. But like other immigrants, they are now succeeding far beyond a narrow group-think. Mr. Powell and Mrs. Rice are the future, says Miss Dickerson, "blacks who believe that Americans marched and died to free them to follow their desires and talents wherever they lead."

This is the lesson Mr. Jackson must learn and teach in the New Year if he wants to remain relevant to anyone. But don't hold your breath.

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