- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Howard Dean’s statement that the Democrats need the vote of white Southerners to win the White House — no matter how inelegantly stated — crystallizes the increasingly important alignment in American politics.

Nowhere in the political spectrum are the voting habits of any group of Americans as solid, and heartfelt, as the allegiance of blacks to the Democratic Party. This has been achieved, whether through rhetoric or deeds, mainly by the support of the Democratic Party for the very successful black revolution — a revolution that has pushed African-Americans into the mainstream of American life, much to the benefit of the nation.

But this allegiance, which gives the Democrats some 95 percent of the black vote, has unexpected ramifications, much to the detriment of the two-party system. It has strengthened racial politics, which in the long run is hurting the Democratic Party, even perhaps fatally.

This is true not only in the South, which is obvious, but in many parts of the North and West where that strong allegiance has alienated many white voters, who are beginning to perceive that blacks and other minorities are using their political power in the Democratic Party to push policies detrimental to the majority whites.

The split is not only ideological. It has important ramifications in the electoral college, the only place where votes are realistically counted. Back in 1968, Richard Nixon used his Southern strategy successfully and took six Southern states, the central core of the once-Democratic “Solid South.” Today, those six states have been enlarged to 10 Southern states where the Republicans are paramount and where the Democratic Party has little chance of winning in 2004, or any time soon thereafter.

Those 10 states of the former Confederacy’s 11 (Florida excluded) gives the Republicans an immediate 123 electoral votes, some 46 percent of the 270 needed for election. With certain Border states such West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, it provides a majority of the 270 needed.

What are the Democrats to do? They can hardly refute the support of black Americans, the group that makes their presidential plans even possible.

What they can do, of course, is trim their robotlike support of minority interests and seek more to advance the desires of the majority. That would require an entirely new outlook, which may not be possible at this late date, when the machinery of the party has mainly been taken over by the left.

What can African-Americans do to reduce the racial component of the political sphere? They can, for example, convince the black caucus in Congress to be less predictable. Despite the bravery of black soldiers, that caucus is almost always anti-national, anti-military, anti-freedom in foreign policies.

Black politicians need to enter the mainstream, as have many black citizens. Black voters need to forgo their perceived immediate needs and re-evaluate the national need, which may often be better reflected in the Republican Party. After all, every national poll indicates Americans as a whole believe national security is best reflected by the Republican, rather than the Democratic, Party. Why should African-Americans be any different when it comes to war and peace?

And if not? If not, the black community of some 35 million Americans inadvertently risk the demise of the Democratic Party, the group they love and to whom they attribute their belated rise in society. This would be of little value either to African-Americans or to the political equilibrium of the nation.

Racial politics has no place in the American democracy, and it is the duty of both races — black and white — to eliminate this bias.

Martin L. Gross, a frequent contributor to these pages, is the author of several books on government and politics, including three New York Times best-sellers. He is a former official of the Democratic Party.


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