- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

Several months ago, I changed my political party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. I did so for many reasons. However, there are two primary ones that led to my switch.

As a black American, I discovered after extensive research that there are, and since the creation of the Republican Party have been, fundamental principles and approaches to satisfying the needs of the people that are directly in line with my beliefs and that can, I am certain, benefit my community. I do not believe that it is good for the black American community, the community at-large, the political system or the country to have any group isolated and held without the political power of negotiation in one party. I believe the Nov. 7 presidential polling results support this notion.

On Nov. 13, The Washington Times printed an article by Ralph Z. Hallow titled, "Republicans split on way to lure back black voters." The article underlined the different opinions as to whether and how the Republican Party should pursue the black American vote. One faction holds that Republicans might as well forget the black vote, since blacks will never vote Republican. This being the case, all minority outreach resources should be directed toward Asian and Hispanic communities. The other side believes that Republicans must engage in the same political game-playing as Democrats, co-opting and/or buying the black vote.

I disagree with both approaches. As was made clear on Nov. 7 and as has been the case in several past elections, black Americans are a part of this political system and must be dealt with earnestly. By the same token, to support the suggestion of buying a vote can only lead to the calculated disenfranchisement of the seller. That is, once the fee, no matter how inconsequential, has been paid and the vote has been cast, the debt is settled and the voter has nothing else to gain especially as regards political access.

As a result the voter's needs and concerns are likely never to be heard or addressed. Rather than dismissing the black vote or attempting to buy it, the Republican Party leadership must initiate a conversation with the black American community that will serve as the first step toward earning the support of black voters. And the black American community has a responsibility to participate in that discussion in an effort to free ourselves from the oppressive nature of being confined to one political party. This discourse must be grounded in honesty and based on a mutual intent for each side to understand the other. We, that is black Americans and Republicans of all ethnicities and socioeconomic status, must engage in real discussion about who we are, what our needs are and how we might best accomplish the goal of satisfying those needs.

I believe that such a dialogue would reveal the true answers to questions that for too long have been manipulated and/or suppressed by stereotypical myths and political oratory. Perhaps of greater importance, such a dialogue might raise questions that for far too long have gone unasked as a result of the fear that is, in this case, a natural product of a politically engineered lack of understanding.

Truth in this discussion cannot be overemphasized. In the words of the English poet, George Herbert, "Dare to be true: nothing can need a lie: A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby."

Once certain truths are revealed for example, the fact that the Republican Party was founded and built on the ideals and principles of self-determination, individual rights and equality; more specifically, anti-slavery and women's suffrage then I suspect it will be easier, if not automatic, for Republicans to attract and work with more black voters a result that would go much further in the political process than a dismissed or a bought vote.

Vicky Wilcher is executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee.

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