The battle to spin the ethnic vote continues, with many Republican commentators arguing that George W. Bush's resounding failure among their favorite minority constituencies only means that Republicans should redouble their efforts to appeal to that group in the next election.
One of the most far-fetched was "Wall Street Journal" editorial page columnist Seth Lipsky's piece "No Majority Without Minorities: It won't be easy, but Republicans need to keep courting Jewish and black voters."
The only plausible Republican strategy for attracting significant numbers of Jews or blacks is to nominate a Jew or a black for President. And the bounce from that would be short-lived, just as regional pride enabled Jimmy Carter to carry white Southerners in 1976, but not in 1980.
An article by Ralph Z. Hallow in The Washington Times quoted a black Republican suggesting a more hard-headed tactic for the GOP: payoffs to black leaders. Former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, William B. Allen advises targeting black politicians and ministers. "The time has come to recognize that the Republican Party has to co-opt — I may even say to buy — the black vote. … You make it too valuable for them to say no to you. … Everybody has something to offer, whether positions, whether money, you name it."
While certainly a bracing alternative to Lipsky's woozy wishing, Allen's plan probably wouldn't work. Although the Democrats have been paying "walking-around" money to black ministers for decades, it is considered scandalous when the GOP tries to match the Democrats. Recall how political consultant Ed Rollins sank his career by boasting that he'd handed out walking-around money to New Jersey ministers to get Christine Todd Whitman elected.
Further, Democrats can offer above-board policy payoffs to black leaders that Republicans just can't match, at least not without eliminating what little difference is left between the parties.
Consider why the Bush Brothers didn't win easily in Florida: because Governor Jeb infuriated the black elite with his One Florida plan. When Ward Connerly, the black hero of California's anti-quota Proposition 209 campaign, came to Florida, Jeb thunk and thunk and finally came up with what he reckoned was the perfect plan to squelch Connerly.
Jeb would eliminate overt racial preferences in state university admissions, but actually increase the number of black students by guaranteeing college admission to any kid finishing in the top 20% of his high school class. Since lots of poor blacks attend schools where even the valedictorian is hard pressed to score above the national average on the SAT, this would be a boon to black college admissions.
Of course, what Jeb forgot was that black elites are not comprised of average blacks. Black leaders mostly send their kids to integrated schools, where their scions find it hard to rank in the top fifth. However, black leaders' kids tend to outscore the poor black kids on the SAT, so One Florida would tend to make affluent black kids worse off to the benefit of their poorer brethren.
Enraged, black leaders ran a tremendous get out the vote campaign, driving the black share of the vote up from 10% in Florida in 1996 to 15% in 2000. And Florida's African Americans votes 93% to 7% against Jeb's brother Dubya.
Now, Mr. Lipsky might suggest that all Jeb had to do was explain to poor black Floridians why his plan was better for them than their leaders' quota plan. Maybe … but let's be frank about the difficulties of getting a complex logical argument across to poor blacks.
Consider this: The only reason Dubya is carrying Florida is because a sizable fraction of the black electorate there botched up their ballots. Although I implied in VDARE that the 26,000 ballots disqualified in Republican Duval County showed that Republicans could be as clueless as Democrats, I was wrong. In Duval's black precincts, 20% of the voters had their ballots disqualified for, well, for stupidity. The get-out-the-vote workers had told inexperienced black voters "to vote on every page." Since the ten Presidential candidates were spread across two pages, many voted for two men for President. [See the amusing New York Times account]. Similarly, The Palm Beach Post reported that the butterfly ballot baffled 16% of the voters in Palm Beach's black districts.
In contrast to Allen's interesting but probably impractical idea, Donald J. Devine, a veteran Republican campaign staffer suggested in The Washington Times article that the GOP not waste party resources on blacks other than carefully selected intellectuals. "Black intellectuals, on our side at least, have made the black intellectuals on the other side listen to our arguments on school vouchers and other issues."
Recall the old joke:
Q. What do you call a black man at a Heritage Foundation conference?
A. Keynote Speaker.
Tomorrow: Part II - why black foreign policy strategists are good for the GOP and America; and the way out of the Republican ethnic dilemma.
December 09, 2000