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Jewish World Review March 1, 2001 / 6 Adar 5761

Morton Kondracke

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Bush needs group to promote ideas in Black America -- WHAT can President Bush possibly do to improve his standing among African-Americans? Despite high-level appointments, efforts at outreach and programs aimed at helping the disadvantaged, his approval ratings continue to lag.

The latest Pew Research Poll reveals that only 22 percent of African-Americans approve of Bush's job performance and 40 percent disapprove. In 1989 the numbers for his father were 53 percent positive and 12 percent negative.

In the election, of course, Bush received less than 9 percent of the black vote.

Both the Republican National Committee and the White House are trying to figure out what to do. RNC Chairman Jim Gilmore is hosting a discussion Wednesday on how to make GOP ideology appealing to African-Americans, and the White House has a secret confab scheduled for early March.

Such meetings should produce a group of moderate-to-conservative African-American executives, ministers, academics and activists, akin to the Independent Women's Forum, who will challenge the conventional wisdom of civil rights groups and defend "compassionate conservatism."

The first task of such a group would be to defend Bush against what the White House rightly regards as the "demonization" that led to the worst election performance among blacks for a Republican since 1964.

Most effective was the low-blow ad put out by the NAACP attacking Bush for opposing a new Texas "hate crimes" law after the brutal murder of African-American James Byrd.

In the ad Byrd's sister compared Bush's action to the murder itself. In states where the ad ran, Bush consistently received less than 10 percent of the black vote. In some states where the ad didn't run, he topped 15 percent.

Bush answered the ad by saying that Byrd's murderers were facing the death penalty and that he'd previously signed an expanded state "hate crimes" statute, but there was no aggressive effort to make those points in the African-American media, White House aides admit.

Bush needs black advocates because the demonization drive continues. Democrats are making it an article of faith in black communities that African-Americans were massively "disenfranchised" in Florida and elsewhere and that Bush was "selected," not "elected," president.

House Democratic leaders have decided to intensify the anti-Bush campaign by assigning perhaps the most incendiary single member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), to head a task force studying voter irregularities.

Although multiple breakdowns occurred in the balloting system in Florida and other states, even the liberal-dominated U.S. Civil Rights Commission hasn't yet produced evidence to support charges that blacks were denied the right to vote. Indeed, Florida's African-American turnout increased by 50 percent in 2000 over 1996.

And contrary to widely repeated charges, a national study by academics Stephen Knack and Martha Knopf shows that predominantly African-American counties are no more likely to use old, error-prone punch-card voting machines than white-dominated counties.

In the long run, Bush's ability to appeal to African-Americans will depend on whether his economic and education policies help minorities and whether civil rights laws are vigorously enforced.

However, Bush also needs to encourage the emergence of African-American voices to challenge the dogmas of traditional liberal civil rights activists.

There is a clear difference between the Democratic Party's dominant attitude on race and the Bush-Republican one.

Democrats tend to indulge what African-American Professor John McWhorter of the University of California at Berkeley calls "victimology" - the notion that African-American social problems are overwhelmingly the result of persistent white racism that can be corrected only by guilt-tripping whites into enacting preferences that favor blacks.

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McWhorter, in his new book, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, argues that while racism certainly exists, it is being overemphasized in a way that diverts black from strategies - academic achievement and entrepreneurship - that will help them take advantage of the opportunities that the civil rights movement has won for them.

The standard strategy of Democrats and civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, McWhorter said in an interview, "is to keep fear alive, not keep hope alive."

McWhorter said he didn't vote for Bush, but likes what he's doing, especially appointing excellence-oriented Dr. Roderick Paige as secretary of Education and linking up with black churches through his faith-based initiative.

He also said he doubts that Bush will ever succeed in even reaching 20 percent of the black vote. "Victimology is too ingrained," he explained. Moreover, he believes that Bush has a permanent "bad smell" about him among blacks.

Whether or not that's true, fighting back is worth the effort - so is fostering an ethic of achievement in black America.

JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.


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02/22/01: AARP's agenda at odds with Bush priorities
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02/14/01: McCain won't run against Bush again, just differ on issues
02/12/01: Is Joe Lieberman tilting left toward 2004?
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02/05/01: Dems move toward bush on taxes, but ...
02/01/01: Bush should be open with press
01/30/01: Bush Should go for broke early on education
01/23/01: Clinton ain't going away, folks
01/19/01: Bush should try for legacy as 'Great Reconciler'
01/16/01: Left-Center Rift Re-emerges For Democratic Leaders
01/12/01: Clinton doing Bush no favors in Mideast
01/09/01: Bush and Democrats can deal
12/14/00: Will Daschle make it his business to get along with President Bush?
12/08/00: GOP is in danger of ruining record on medical research
11/27/00: Some fascinating stories about how and why people voted
11/22/00: GOP Survived health bullets, but one is left
11/20/00: Can next president and Hill deal?
11/15/00: With nation split, leaders must reach across party divide
11/07/00: The Envelope, Please:Bush Beats Gore, GOP Holds Hill
11/03/00: Parties appeal to two 'gospels'
11/01/00: Lurking in the shadows
10/26/00: What's Gore's Social Security plan?
10/18/00: While Bush, Gore debate surplus, Congress spends it
10/16/00: Two debates leave lots of questions
10/03/00: What questions should be debated?
09/28/00: Gore and Bush should prepare to lead
09/19/00: Bush let values issue slip away
08/25/00: Gore hands center to Bush
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba
08/08/00: 2000 race could leave high road for low
08/03/00: Convention must point Bush to center
08/01/00: GOP Readies 'Debt Lockbox' As 2000 Strategy
07/27/00: Cheney adds heft to GOP ticket
07/25/00: Foreign, Defense Policy Deserves Full 2000 Debate
07/20/00: Truman Show: Gore Replays 1948, But Bush Isn't Dewey
07/18/00: Bush Must Fight Gore's Drug Plan As 'Bad Medicine'
07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
07/10/00: Abortion is good for something --- just ask AlGore
07/06/00: Meet Steve Ricchetti, Bubba's secret weapon
06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
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09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

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