August 7, 2000
Going After the Black Vote
Memo To: Dick Cheney
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Party Realignment
George W's acceptance speech in Philadelphia said a lot of different things to different people, but to me it said he is serious about going after the black vote, which if successful will not only win the presidential election, but also give the GOP the Congress. This would be the first unified Republican Congress since 1952 when Eisenhower was elected (and in his first press conference as President announced he would NOT cut taxes as he had hinted he would during the campaign.) Because few Americans know you, and even fewer black American know you, so far you are being viewed as somehow different than GWB on the issue of "inclusion." I know better, having first met you in 1969 when you were Don Rumsfeld's deputy at the Office of Economic Opportunity. I also was completely aware of the critical role you played as Defense Secretary in choosing Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff.
I'm going to write quite a few "memos on the margin" to you as the campaign proceeds, and I probably will devote a high proportion of them to this matter of the black vote. In 1996, Bob Dole thought he made a stab at the black vote by asking Jack Kemp to be his running mate. It was a gesture, but his campaign team never believed the ticket could crack the black vote and so never expended any energy on it. Remember Dole turned down a chance to address the NAACP? His campaign strategists thought it would do little good and maybe do some damage. Throughout the fall campaign, Kemp tried as best he could to schedule events with black groups, but always faced grumbling from the strategists, who figured it was a hopeless cause. As long as there was no real commitment from the top of the ticket, no real effort was made reach out. The top of your ticket has made what appears to be a real commitment, but until we find out what the strategists think about spending real time and money on that effort, I won't be able to see much chance of success. In 1996, I met with several top men in the Dole campaign, trying to get them to commit at least a few million dollars to black media out of the budget of more than $60 million. As far as I know, they did not budget ten cents.
This should be one of your first priorities, Dick, making sure this does not slip away. Campaign consultants who get commissions on the money they spend on television spots do not do nearly as well on print ads in black newspapers, radio spots on black stations, and plugs on black cable-tv talk shows. The Democratic National Committee has already funneled $7 million in soft money to the NAACP from their rich white contributors. Anything less than $3 million of your sizeable budget would look slim. You can make $3 million go a long way by getting the message right and putting it in the right places. You are going to get more than 95% of the GOP vote this time around, which means you can afford to spend this much on the black vote and perhaps an equal amount on Hispanic media. That means you should find people who have some experience in this realm and not rely on the usual folks who have been running all-white campaigns for the last half century.
One things you definitely should do is make a bookmark for <http://blackelectorate.com> and encourage GWB's campaign strategist, Karl Rove, to do the same. The website is the best of those that focus on black political issues because the young man who runs it, Cedric Welch Muhammad, is almost always on the margin in his understanding of the political, economic and cultural world. It is at his site over the weekend that I spotted a piece by Crispin Sartwell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a newspaper that serves the black community, which took seriously the possibility of a realignment underway. In the process he mentioned you, which is why I decided to address this missive to you. Here is how he put it: "So any shift of African Americans toward the Republicans, if any ever happens, may well express a deep underlying resentment of government programs. But it is also likely to respond to demographics, as more African-Americans enter the middle and upper classes. Bush's choice of Dick Cheney, who is a very white man, was perhaps not particularly inspired with regard to the black vote. But the conduct of the convention has been, and may well signal a historic shift of power."
I suggest you read the entire piece, to which I link here. He provides his personal e-mail address at the end of the article, so you might even contact him to get his thoughts on how you might be "inspired" with regard to the black vote. As you can sense from Sartwell's observation, realignment is going to happen. You can help it along. I never met the man, but he himself may be on the margin, the place where change takes place.
[Philly Inquirer piece follows]
Philadelphia Inquirer - August 3, 2000
Outreach to blacks may succeed
By Crispin Sartwell
The best thing that happened in the first two days of the Republican convention was an electrifying sermon on the subject of faith by the Rev. Herbert Lusk of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church here in Philadelphia. Then the astoundingly inspirational Bill Jolly Choir rocked the gospel.
These were only two of many incursions of African America into what has traditionally been a very pale party indeed.
One of the most conspicuous features of the speaker list has been its blackness. Among others, retired Gen. Colin Powell was the keynoter in Monday, Condoleezza Rice (George W. Bush's international affairs expert) had the second slot on Tuesday and U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma has taken a couple of shifts as chair.
The strategy has been widely condemned as tokenism, and indeed the proportion of black speakers is much higher than the proportion of black delegates. It will surprise almost everybody if Bush garners as much as 20 percent of the black vote in November.
But if I were a Democrat, I'd be nervous. The Republican Party is extremely well-placed to make inroads into the black vote, and, if they do, they could destroy the coalition that has made the Democrats something close to a majority party for several generations.
As the presence of Rev. Lusk suggested, the key to the shift will be black churches. Many of these are basically conservative, especially when it comes to what are called "moral issues" such as drug abuse, extramarital sex and teenage pregnancy.
If you listen to the rhetoric of, for example, Minister Louis Farrakhan, it is hard to miss the conservative message of self-reliance, free market capitalism and individual responsibility.
And with the centrality of religious institutions in black communities all over the country, very little would be needed to break off part of the black vote for conservative candidates. Indeed, a few simple gestures of openness and inclusion might do the job, and the Republicans are making such gestures here this week.
One of Bush's central themes has been a movement away from federal programs and into support for "faith-based institutions" in areas such as education, drug treatment, convict rehabilitation and sheltering the homeless. Whatever you may think of that in relation to the separation of church and state, it is likely to be both popular and effective in black communities where churches are already the most effective institutions.
Such an approach points up the failures of the Great Society initiatives that the Democrats developed and still support. Some of these, especially federal housing programs, have been abject failures and have destroyed rather than enhanced communities. Others are still supported by many black leaders and many liberal Democrats.
But these too have engendered deep underlying resentments. In her book No Disrespect, the black activist Sister Souljah says of her childhood, "We had to adjust to the welfare system and its bureaucrats. They wanted to know everything, and I mean everything."
The bureaucrats wanted to know whether her mother had a boyfriend. They searched the family's project apartment for new toys and appliances, trying to prove they had sources of income other than the welfare check. Sister Souljah and her family felt continually violated and disempowered in the welfare system.
If that is the alternative, then moving federal funding through faith-based institutions is a very good idea indeed.
So any shift of African Americans toward the Republicans, if any ever happens, may well express a deep underlying resentment of government programs. But it is also likely to respond to demographics, as more African-Americans enter the middle and upper classes.
Bush's choice of Dick Cheney, who is a very white man, was perhaps not particularly inspired with regard to the black vote. But the conduct of the convention has been, and may well signal a historic shift of power.
Crispin Sartwell's most recent book is "Act Like You Know: African-American Autobiography and White Identity." His e-mail is mindstorm at pipeline.com