- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

At this stage in the campaign, it is not about issues, or likeability or leadership it's about turning out the vote. In a tight political race, the object of the game is to motivate your base. This is what is to be expected. In the last week of a campaign, we hear the candidates sound themes that inspire their base and reach out to the independent voter. It is all part of the countdown to Election Day.
What I had hoped would not be a part of the endgame strategy this year would be the politics of race. Unfortunately, Sen. Chuck Robb crossed that line of good politics earlier last week.
Prior to last week, we had a unique opportunity to show the rest of the country what it looks like when two principled politicians with very different political philosophies campaign against one another. Then, it got nasty. I am referring to the race card. In last-minute phone calls, Robb backers accused Mr. Allen of having once had a "noose" an Old West item in his office and a Confederate flag at home. Both were part of a collection of memorabilia. This attack on Mr. Allen specifically, and the Republican Party and black conservatives in general, was a sad reminder that when things get tough in the final days of the campaign, some politicians resort to negative attacks.
The petty politics of divisiveness, racism and name-calling should not have a place in either party in Virginia today. I say this, not as a Republican (though I am and proudly so), but as a Virginian. To suggest that someone who has dedicated the better part of his professional career to public service on behalf of all the citizens of Virginia is a racist simply because of his support for or lack of support for various bills not only casts a chilling effect on public discourse, but also unfairly muddies that individual's character. And yet, we continue to wonder why so many people are turned off by politics.
Those of us who know Mr. Allen best know he is not a racist, but rather someone who believes that different approaches to the issues that face our community deserve serious consideration. Mr. Robb knows this; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People knows this; and the Black Caucus knows this. But, they want to win this election and so they stoop to the politics of fear.
The citizens of Virginia have made it clear in poll after poll that they do not want negative and petty attacks on an individual's character, but a real and diverse discussion of today's problems and solutions.
I liked Mr. Robb. I even campaigned for him once. But as I began to analyze issues and refine my own political philosophy, I realized that there were many sharp disagreements between what the party stood for and what I believed. We clashed over issues such as the value, dignity and sanctity of life. We disagreed on education and tax policies and other issues, but despite everything, I still liked Mr. Robb. I just realized that neither he nor the Democratic Party shared my core values. Increasingly, African-Americans are coming to agree.
The attack on Mr. Allen by the black "establishment caucus" is no surprise to any African-American who publicly declares himself or herself a conservative. For too long, these politicians have said there is only one way, and if you are not with us, then you must be an Uncle Tom. The growing number of black conservatives, though, is a testament to courage and the desperate need for a new way of thinking about the problems that plague the black community.
We are motivated by ideas, not promises of political jobs as some have implied. In fact, many of us take pay cuts when we move from the private sector to public service. We "thought" our way into the Republican Party we were not "bought," manipulated or scared in. Black conservatives and Republicans care passionately about poverty, racism, education, social security, health care, protecting our elderly and other issues in our society today, but our solutions to those issues differ greatly from those of Democrats.
I had believed that Mr. Robb and Mr. Allen could debate policies and issues and then both walk away Virginia gentlemen. It is shameful that Mr. Robb and his surrogates felt the need to sink to negative and unwarranted attack politics. They know that everything they cited as evidence of Mr. Allen's insensitive or racist thinking has nothing to do with racism, but is explained by his philosophy of government, love of history and western paraphernalia. To these individuals, please know we respect your views and your contributions to the civil rights movement but strongly disagree with you on where we go from here.
However, this does not mean that we or Mr. Allen are not sensitive to the particular needs of the black community. In addition to creating opportunities for blacks in the private and public sectors, Mr. Allen's policies have made our communities safer, improved schools and helped to break the cycle of welfare dependency, while maintaining a safety net for those in need. These are policies that benefit all Virginians black and white.
And to Mr. Robb please do not insult our sensibilities with a Clintonesque denial of your role in this. If you are standing behind your supporters as they make such allegations, you are just as guilty of shamefully manipulating the citizens of Virginia.
Let's debate our differences. We must question ideas, not the motivation behind them. We can attack bad policy without maligning our opponent's character simply because he disagrees with our approach.

Kay Coles James served as the secretary of Health and Human Resources under then-Gov. George Allen.

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