Jewish World Review Nov. 18, 2002 / 13 Kislev 5763

Thomas Sowell

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Whither Republicans?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Even in defeat, Democrats can console themselves that they still have a lock on minority votes in general and black votes in particular. Moreover, given the demographic realities, minority voters are going to be a growing percentage of all voters in the years ahead.

The passage of time alone will rescue the Democrats -- if the Republicans do nothing about it. The big question is: What should they do about it?

Those Republicans who have in the past tried to urge their party to seek more black votes have typically been moderate or liberal Republicans, and they have essentially tried to offer blacks and other minorities something like what the Democrats have offered them -- government-financed goodies of one sort or another.

The problem with this approach is that Democrats will always be better Democrats than Republicans can be. Republicans are not even credible when they try to act like Democrats. Moreover, there is no need for Republicans to go through this pretense, because they can offer things that Democrats cannot possibly offer.

One of the most important keys to the further advancement of blacks is their younger generation's getting a decent education, which many cannot get in today's public schools. Democrats are so dependent on teachers' unions that they cannot possibly offer vouchers, for example.

Republicans could say to black voters: "We don't think quotas to get into colleges is the answer. We are for providing a solid educational foundation, beginning years before college, so that you don't need quotas." Blacks are so used to being lied to that such frankness would carry more weight than usual.

No need to pretend to be Republican Democrats, either on education or any other issue. On crime and on sky-high housing prices as well, the Democrats are so locked into the ACLU and environmental extremists that their hands are tied when it comes to doing anything effective that would benefit blacks in these respects, along with the rest of the population.

How hard would it be to sell this to blacks? A lot depends on how many you are trying to sell it to. Even if three-quarters of all blacks refuse to listen, that still leaves the other 25 percent.

George W. Bush received just 8 percent of the black vote in the 2000 elections. If he can get that up to 15 percent in 2004, it will be very hard for any Democrat to have a chance against him. For Republicans in general, the issue is not winning a majority of the black vote, but making enough inroads to achieve victory.

There is no point in Republicans trying to placate people like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or the current leaders of the NAACP. That would just muddy up the message and forfeit credibility.

The Democrats' fundamental problem is that they have no new ideas with widespread appeal. But they don't have to, so long as they have huge automatic majorities among particular sets of voters, such as minorities, environmentalists, public sector unions and the countercultural left.

Minority voters should be the ones most readily detached from that Democratic coalition -- not all at once, but enough to make a difference. That is because they personally suffer the consequences of counterproductive liberal policies in failing schools, violent crime and housing prices that skyrocket in the wake of severe land use restrictions.

An economic study in the fall issue of Regulation magazine makes clear that land use restrictions are the key factor in runaway housing prices. The key factor behind these restrictions is the environmental cultists among the Democrats.

Limousine liberals can insulate themselves from the bad consequences of liberal policies, but most minority group members cannot. Blacks and Hispanics cannot simply pay private school tuition to get their children out of bad public schools, or pay the costs of living in gated communities to escape crime, or buy homes on five-acre lots, as some land use regulations require.

Whatever the issue, Republicans have more to gain as Republicans than as imitation Democrats. And, given their currently very low support among minority voters, they have less to lose by trying a new approach.

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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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