Jewish World Review May 30, 2003 / 28 Iyar 5763

Thomas Sowell

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An appalling idiocy, Part III | The idea of a slave memorial on the Washington Mall is so appalling that it is hard to understand how it has as much support as it does. Among politicians, it is much easier to understand why Democrats support the idea than why so many Republicans go along.

Except for some national disaster, at home or abroad, the Democrats' only chance in the 2004 elections is to turn one group of Americans against other groups of Americans. They must make blacks resentful of whites or women resentful of men or else try to scare the elderly into thinking that someone is going to take away their Social Security or Medicare -- which no one in his right mind would do.

Divisiveness is where it's at for the Democrats and few things will be more divisive than a slave memorial on the Washington Mall. But what's in it for the Republicans?

The Republicans' big problem is that the Democrats get 90 percent of the black vote in election after election. Supporting a slave memorial may seem like a tempting way to try to get some of those black votes. But such futile gambits as this only underline the fact that Republicans have no idea how to get black votes -- at least, no idea that works.

Republicans cannot expect any huge immediate increase in the number of blacks who vote for them, no matter what they do. Nor is it necessary for them to get a huge increase. If the black vote in 2004 splits 80-20 in favor of the Democrats, instead of the usual 90-10, the Democrats are in big trouble on election day because they have already lost large segments of the rest of the population.

The way to begin to attract some black voters away from the Democrats is for the Republicans to offer things that are consistent with their words and deeds elsewhere -- something believable, rather than something shortsightedly opportunistic, like a memorial to slaves.

Republicans also need to understand that black voters are not just one big blob. Despite an overwhelming vote for Democrats -- mostly liberal-left Democrats at that -- there are differences of opinion among blacks.

It is futile for the Republicans to think that they can either con or convince those who are committed to a grievance-centered, quota-seeking, welfare state vision of the world. Republicans will only squander their credibility with blacks and whites alike by trying.

One issue on which the Republicans hold all the high cards, both morally and politically, is school choice. The Democratic Party is far too beholden to the teachers' unions to permit black parents to take their children out of disastrous public schools.

Polls have for years shown the black population to be the strongest supporters of vouchers, even though black and white Democrats alike have fought bitterly against the idea.

Recently, however, a few blacks in politics -- notably the mayor of Washington -- have decided that it is more important to save the future for the next generation of black children than to preserve the public school monopoly for the greater glory of the teachers' unions. Here is a golden opportunity for the Republicans to go after a segment of the black vote by being Republicans, not imitation Democrats.

Crime is another issue where the Republican position can find resonance in the black community which, after all, suffers more from crime than anyone else. There have been years when more blacks than whites were murdered -- in absolute numbers. But here, again, there is no point going after the liberal-left portion of the black vote, even if that is the largest portion.

The black voters whom the Republicans have a chance of winning over are those who are tired of seeing criminals turned loose by liberal judges and tired of seeing criminals armed to the teeth while "gun control" laws only prevent law-abiding citizens from being armed in their homes, as a deterrent to criminals.

Republicans need a small base of black voters on which to begin building a larger constituency later on. But Republicans cannot begin to create that base on the left side of the political spectrum with such things as a slave memorial.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Controversial Essays." (Sales help fund JWR.)


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