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Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2000 /5 Shevat, 5760

Joseph Perkins

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Black blind obedience -- ARE BLACK REPUBLICANS traitors to their race? Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager, apparently thinks so. She cannot fathom how any correct-thinking black would vote for any candidate who isn't a Democrat like her boss.

To hear Brazile tell it, you'd have to go all the way back to the days of Abraham Lincoln (or at least Lyndon Johnson) to find an administration that has done more for black folks than the one currently occupying the White House.

On the Clinton-Gore watch, said Brazile, in remarks published this week by The Washington Times, race matters have taken a decided turn for the better. "We now discuss race in terms of how to give people the opportunity of all Americans," she boasted.

"On the other hand," she said, "the Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they have no other game. They have no love and joy. They'd rather take pictures with black children than feed them."

This is precisely the scurrilous, cynical message that the party of Gore promulgates among black voters to keep them locked in the Democratic column. The only thing unusual about Brazile's comments is that they were loud and public. Usually, the Dems prefer to keep their political race-baiting on the down low.

The sad part of it all is that many -- but certainly not all -- blacks accept the Democrats' slander uncritically. They have been persuaded by racial demagogues, like Brazile, that the Republican Party is anti-black and that, therefore, no Republican candidate, no matter who he or she is, is worthy of black votes.

But does Brazile truly know what is in the hearts of George W. Bush and John McCain, the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination?

Can she say they have no "love," no "joy" in their souls? Does she really believe that these two men would blithely take a picture with a black child and be completely untroubled to find out that the child was starving?

If these men -- if these Republicans -- were so unfeeling, if they were capable of such callousness, if they were so lacking in compassion, then no black person (or white or brown or yellow person, for that matter) in their right mind should vote for them.

But here's a news flash for Brazile: There are decent Republicans out there (just like there are decent Democrats). Brazile's boss, Gore, is no more loving and joyful than Bush or McCain (or any other Republican seeking the White House). And Gore is no more concerned about feeding the hungry -- be they black, white, yellow or brown -- than his Republican challengers.

The turn of the century ought to bring an end to the black electorate's blind loyalty to the Democratic Party. No longer should the Democrats be able to take for granted that 90 percent of blacks are going to automatically vote for the party's presidential nominee, whether it be Al Gore or Mickey Mouse. Black voters owe it to themselves to give Republicans a fair hearing.

That's not to say that if Republicans are given a fair hearing by black voters there will be some sudden and dramatic party realignment. Only that, absent racial demagoguery by Brazile and other Democratic loyalists, maybe a third of blacks (or more) would vote Republican.

Indeed, on a range of issues, black Americans have more in concert with Republicans than Democrats. This was borne out by a 1996 report published by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C. research organization.

According to the report, a majority of blacks supported school prayer. Most favored a proposal (proffered by the Republican Congress) for a $500-per-child federal tax credit. Most agreed with "three strikes" crime laws. A plurality endorsed school vouchers. And most favored no benefit increases for single mothers on welfare who have additional children.

Perhaps the most surprising survey result reported by the Joint Center is that 60 percent of blacks identified themselves as either moderate or conservative.

When that finding is taken into consideration along with the expansion of the black middle class over the past two decades and the increasing suburbanization of the black population, one would think that an increasing number of blacks would have joined the Republican Party by now.

But the ranks of black Republicans remain small. And race-baiting Democratic loyalists like Brazile (who shamelessly caricaturize the Republican Party as anti-black, and unfairly tar black Republicans like Powell and Watts as racial turncoats) are determined to keep it that way.

JWR periodic contributor Joseph Perkins is San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and a television commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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