- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

With the stakes in this year’s elections ever so high, it is becoming more obvious that there will be no Republican challenger in the mayor’s race. Carol Schwartz, who has long been the only Republican of any consequence in all of City Hall, remains the standard bearer, which speaks volumes about a city that prides itself as having been the home to one of the most prominent radical Republicans during the Civil War era.

In fact, Democrats have dominated both City Hall and the D.C. electorate since Congress passed the D.C. Home Rule Act in 1973, and their liberal policies, in all practical reality, bankrupt the city. If latter-day radical Republicans had not intervened in the mid-1990s, the federal city would not be in the midst of the economic development revival that spans the District, and the east side of the Anacostia River — the Great Racial Divide — would surely not be on the verge of reconstruction.

East of the River includes both Ward 7 and Ward 8, two political districts that are Democratic strongholds. But it is Ward 8, the city’s poorest and most notorious when it comes to crime, that ignores its Republican heritage in wholesale.

Frederick Douglass, the instigator of emancipation and suffrage, lived in Ward 8, in an estate he called Cedar Hill. Ward 8 also is home to streets named for other radical Republicans who, as members of Congress, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Douglass to usher through the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. The blessed radicals — Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin Butler, who served in the House, and Benjamin Wade and Charles Sumner, who served in the Senate — advocated immediate emancipation for blacks, the enlistment of black soldiers and they railed against the Ku Klux Klan. Today, generations removed from those bloodied days of Civil War, these men are memorialized in, of all places, Ward 8, Southeast Washington, where streets are so named in their honor.

It’s my bet that former Mayor Marion Barry, who once again serves on the D.C. Council, Wanda Lockridge, who runs the D.C. Democratic Party, and her husband, William Lockridge, Ward 8’s school board representative, are unaware of the crucial roles that these Republicans played to help free their ancestors. Like typical Democrats, they load themselves on ballots, and then tumble around the various electorates each and every election cycle.

It was during the Reconstruction era that the first blacks were elected to Congress. Maryland voters this year have the opportunity to elect Michael Steele, their current lieutenant governor, as their first black senator. Mr. Steele, who was born in Maryland but cut his teeth on Republicanism in this city, is an effective straightshooter of humor and truth. Tuesday evening at the D.C. Republicans’ 2006 Lincoln-Douglass Dinner proved both perfect forum for the candidate and perfect platform for party leaders and grass-roots stalwarts. Democrats are passive, waiting on something called hope. Republicans, said Mr. Steele, who was the keynote speaker, “demand something from their leadership…We don’t plot it, we don’t plan it, we don’t contrive it, we just do it.”

Action always has spoken louder than words. Here is Frederick Douglass on radical Republicanism during Reconstruction: “Radicalism, so far from being odious, is not the popular passport to power. The men most bitterly charged with it go to Congress with the largest majorities, while the timid and doubtful are sent by lean majorities, or else left at home.”

Is the District still overwhelmed by the “odious” stench of the one-size-fits-all politics of the Democratic Party. Think about it. The mayor and the congressional delegate have always been Democrats. Of the 13 members of the D.C. Council, only one member is a Republican but, bless her heart, Carol Schwartz hardly is a radical. We know why our schools are so bad. The entrenched, one-size-fits-all bureaucracy. We know why it took so long to get a supermarket chain to commit to Ward 8 — that’s right, a supermarket. The intractable politics of the Democratic Party.

The grass-roots of the D.C. GOP, I hope, are doing precisely as Douglass, Wade, Stevens and the other radicals did in their day — awakening the party from a certain malaise.

Democratic poverty pimps often refer to people who live on the other side of the Great Racial Divide with the denigrating signature “the least, the last and the lost.” Radicals, if they were to stand up and be heard, would show them the difference between a hand up and a hand out. Radicals would articulate the differences between Wade Road, Stevens Road and Sumner Road, and debate the historical coincidence of street names likes Mississippi Avenue and Alabama Avenue, which also are situated across the Great Racial Divide.

While the radicals were in the minority within their own party, their focus within the ranks of the Republican Party moved men to war and a president to an address at Gettysburg and a proclamation of emancipation. Most importantly, radical Republicanism spawned three amendments that together spell freedom for black Americans. Do blacks still want to pay homage to Democrats?

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