- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Retired Gen. Colin Powell obviously had it wrong when he recently said the Republican Party "is certainly not seen as the black guy's party." Last week, George W. Bush was the keynote speaker at this year's annual Harmony Awards Dinner hosted by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
The dinner reveals how Mr. Bush is making racial harmony a Republican theme. This year's award winners include the people of different races that claim to be descendants of Thomas Jefferson. Mrs. Crystal Dehaan, founder of Crystal House Inc., was also honored for setting up learning centers across the country. In the spirit of the event, Mr. Bush gave a speech about race relations, stressing that the United States must "seize the moment and make justice and opportunity stand side by side."
Roy Innis, the national chairman of CORE, noted that while Vice President Al Gore was invited to give a speech of his own, he failed to take advantage of the opportunity. He declined to even send a surrogate speaker to oppose Mr. Bush, who welcomed the chance to address CORE. Perhaps Mr. Gore refused to speak because of the commanding lead he already has among blacks, considering it an ineffective use of his time.
If Mr. Gore's absence indicates that the Democratic Party takes blacks for granted, then Democrats truly need to make an effort to come to next year's Harmony Awards to learn about real diversity. The national spokesperson of CORE, Niger Innis (Roy Innis' son), reminded the audience that "Real diversity is not just people of different races, but differences within single races." He warned people that racial groups should not be treated as monoliths.
George W. told the audience, "I don't take polls to tell me what to think." If he had, his political strategists might have advised him to attend a different event, targeting those individuals who the Republican Party has more traditional relations with. But Mr. Bush is not running a traditional campaign.
On the trail, he has increasingly marketed the Republican Party to minorities who have not characteristically supported Republican candidates. Speaking under a banner reading, "The Right Thing, Not the Race Thing," Mr. Bush emphasized the need to adopt "a new way of thinking" with regards to education. He went on to say, "We must challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations," asserting that if clear standards are not established for education, children will not have the opportunity to succeed. Mr. Bush reassured parents that unlike his opponent, he supported local and parental control of educational institutions. He was met with loud cheers from the audience.
In fact, Mr. Gore's preference for federal control of education is understandable within the context of his view on race. Just as he has failed to recognize the diversity within racial or ethnic groups, Mr. Gore regards all Americans as best served when educated uniformly, under the supervision of the federal government. His vision is incompatible with the diverse set of communities that can be found in America.
Before attending the CORE event on Monday, Mr. Bush spoke to the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington. In doing so, Mr. Bush has challenged the common stereotypes of the Republican Party as unsuited for minorities. At the luncheon, he proposed splitting the Immigration and Naturalization Service in two, such that one part could focus on border enforcement, and the other, educating families about American immigration laws. In empowering the same law-enforcement officers to help the very people they are trying to apprehend, Mr. Bush said America is "send[ing] mixed signals to the people we're trying to help."
Because of all of his activities, it is not surprising that Mr. Bush has narrowed Mr. Gore's lead in the ethnic and racial categories that the Democratic Party has typically commanded. Mr. Bush's support among Hispanics has grown to 41 percent, according to a Voter.com poll released last week. The Bush campaign even began running ads in the New York City media market featuring his nephew, George P. Bush, speaking in Spanish.
Roy Innis had it right when he declared at the dinner, "Harmony is possible, if and only if we keep the podium open." For Mr. Gore, that means he should step up to the podium and speak when the opportunity arises. George Bush has done just that. "Bush has demonstrated that the Republican Party can be an inclusive party willing to reach out," explained Robert Hornak, president of the New York Young Republicans. Mr. Bush has succeeded among diverse peoples because he realizes the American dream is the same no matter who holds it.

Jaime Sneider is editorial page editor of the Columbia Daily Spectator.

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