- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2006

Nowhere is political frivolity more in evidence than in issues involving racial and ethnic groups. Disagree with some policies or demands and you become an instant “racist.”

The substance of those policies or demands, and of objections to them, get lost in an orgy of rhetoric and personal accusations. Race is but one of a growing number of issues where rational discussion has become virtually impossible.

Rational discussion would not serve the interests of the Democratic Party, and the Republicans think the way to increase their small share of the black vote is to imitate the Democrats. All the most powerful groups within the Democratic Party — the teachers’ unions, environmental zealots, lawyers who make big bucks off frivolous lawsuits, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — have interests diametrically opposed those of blacks.

Teachers’ unions fight any attempt to allow parents to pull their children out of failing schools. No one needs to do that more than black parents who want their children to get a decent education — without which they have little chance for a better life.

Severe building restrictions imposed by environmental zealots make housing prices skyrocket, forcing blacks by the tens of thousands out of San Francisco and other places dominated by green limousine liberals.

Huge damage awards or out-of-court settlements won by frivolous lawsuits force up all prices, with special impact on low-income groups, such as blacks.

When the ACLU and liberal judges get criminals freed on flimsy grounds, or prevent expulsion of hoodlums from public schools, the community most likely to be harmed is the black community.

How then can the Democrats consistently get the lion’s share of black votes? And why can’t the Republicans make any serious inroads?

Democrats understand the key to their success is keeping blacks dependent and fearful. They cry “racism” at every opportunity and resurrect every grievance of the past. But the real secret of their success is the ineptness of Republicans.

Republicans have been trying to win over the average black voter, something they are not likely to do for decades, if not generations, because of political inertia.

Blacks voted solidly Republican for more than a half-century after Abraham Lincoln and solidly Democratic for more than a half-century after Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nor are blacks unique. The “Solid South” voted Democratic for more than a century.

The only black voters the GOP has any real chance to attract are those whose views and values happen to be closer to those of the Republicans than those of the Democrats. These are certainly a minority of black voters, but many elections are won or lost by a few percentage points. In a closely divided country, if the Republicans can just reduce the Democrats’ 90 percent of the black vote to 75 percent, the Democrats are in big trouble.

Instead of specifically targeting those black voters they might have some chance of winning, Republicans have been trying for decades to placate black “leaders,” including the NAACP, and to throw blacks such sops as stamps honoring Paul Robeson and Kwanzaa, and awarding a Medal of Freedom to Mohammad Ali.

Those black voters the Republicans have some chance of winning over are more likely to be repelled than attracted by Republicans’ honoring a communist, the black separatist counterculture and a follower of Louis Farrakhan.

As for black “leaders,” as heads of protest movements they need an enemy just to keep their jobs, and where will they find new enemies if they let up on the Republicans? The NAACP’s most irresponsible and demagogic insults against Republican presidents did not abate even after Ronald Reagan and both Bushes tried conferring and conciliating with them.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Republicans that a strategy that has failed every time for more than 20 years may be wrong.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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