Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2002 / 29 Elul 5762

Thomas Sowell

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"Friends" of blacks: Part II

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In a commercial that ran during the Christmas-New Years holidays a few years ago, the husband was trying to keep an old car patched up, while the wife wanted him to get a new one. At the end, the wife asks: "Should old acquaintance be forgot?" And she answers emphatically: "Yes!"

No group is more in need of forgetting old political ties and making some new ones than blacks. The black vote has been almost an automatic monopoly of the Democratic Party for years. Yet the dominant forces among the Democrats have agendas that are directly contrary to the interests of blacks.

This is not due to racism but to the fact that single-issue zealots have more clout within the Democratic Party than blacks do. These single-issue groups will vote for whoever serves their purposes, so the Democrats have to earn their votes, while blacks vote for Democrats automatically.

Nothing is more important to the future advancement of blacks than the quality of their children's education. But any attempt to give black parents real options as to where they can send their children to school runs into a brick wall because the teachers' unions are the 800-pound gorillas of the Democratic Party.

Controlling millions of votes and millions of dollars in campaign contributions, the teachers unions' interests prevail, even when that sacrifices the future of a whole generation of young blacks. But, despite polls which show that blacks favor vouchers more than any other group, black votes continue to go to Democrats who sacrifice their children on the altar to the teachers' unions.

Black 4th graders scored higher on tests in Texas than in any other state. But 92 percent of black votes went against the Republican governor of Texas in the 2000 presidential election. Democrats had rhetoric, symbolism, and inertia going for them.

Housing is another key area where the interests of blacks get trumped by the interests of another crucial constituency of the Democratic Party -- the environmentalist cult. Most blacks cannot afford the exorbitant costs of homes and apartments in those places where the environmentalists are politically dominant.

Name a place where liberal Democrats have been in control for many years and you are almost certain to find a place where housing costs are far higher than housing costs in the rest of the country. That is because sky-high prices for housing are due to sky-high prices for land. These extravagant land prices are in turn due to "open space" laws and other land use restrictions which the environmentalists push, heedless of the cost to others.

But here, as in education, symbolism trumps reality, and black votes go overwhelmingly to support politicians whose policies drive up housing prices by catering to the environmental movement.

Another great problem for blacks is crime. Liberal Democrats have long resisted efforts to crack down on criminals. Instead, the great liberal dogma is that we need to seek out the "root causes" of crime and set up government social programs to solve the problem by "prevention" of crime.

Beginning in the 1960s, massive and ever-expanding welfare state programs co-existed for decades with ever-increasing crime rates, while liberal judges kept finding new reasons to turn criminals loose. Eventually, however, tougher new laws in the 1980s began to put more criminals behind bars for longer times.

Liberal Democrats loudly protested this increased locking up of criminals. Then, when the crime rate began to fall for the first time in decades, the liberals were baffled as to why this was happening.

Since a higher percentage of blacks than whites are victims of criminals, blacks have far more at stake than others when it comes to controlling crime. But Democrats have been working against their interests because Democrats are more responsive to liberal ideologues like the American Civil Liberties Union.

The issues on which Democrats cater to blacks are largely symbolic issues, such as naming streets for Martin Luther King or throwing money at the pet projects of various community "leaders." So long as Democrats can get the votes of blacks by promoting symbolism, and the support of other groups by substantive policies, they are in good shape on election day. But blacks are not, because symbolism does nothing about education, housing or crime.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate