Thursday, November 20, 2008

Emphasizing Race

Sophia A. Nelson, a black former Republican congressional staffer and committee counsel, has written for Sunday's edition of The Washington Post an article which wil delight most of my fellow liberal Democrats. She described the recent relationship between the Republican Party and black America and "why so many of us, including me, ended up, after struggling with our consciences, supporting and voting for the Illinois senator." She argues

After such a devastating loss, Republicans will have to do some retooling. We'll have to decide whether we want to be the party that believes in smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation, or whether we're going to be a litmus-test party that responds only to the demands of social conservatives. But most important, we'll have to confront our most disastrous modern legacy: our poor relationship with black Americans, the very people the party was formed to protect from the expansion of slavery into Kansas and Nebraska in 1854.

Spare me the nod, of dubious sincerity, toward introspection. The party Sophia Nelson supports is for lower taxes for the wealthy, with the resulting higher budget deficit; deregulation of the financial services industry; spying on American citizens; international trade without safeguards for workers or the environment; an energy policy which discourages alternative sources of energy; initiating a war under false pretenses. She's on board as long as it isn't a party "obsessed with religion, guns and abortion," as she approvingly quotes "one black Republican businesman from Virginia."

But of course the GOP ran the a highly secular presidential nominee, John McCain, instead of, say, Reverend Mike Huckabee. And the nominee did not emphasize "religion, guns, and abortion," though he and his running mate were allegedly in favor of the first two and against the third. Instead, the McCain-Palin ticket reflected traditional party values in its denunciation of Barack Obama for "raising taxes" (though the increase would come only to those individuals earning over $200,000, or families earning over $250,000, per year); for being a "socialist" (presumably for his advocacy of the middle class); and for not supporting the "drill, baby, drill" prescription of offshore drilling everywhere, a sop to the oil companies.

And how should the Republican Party change, according to Nelson? She unabashedly recommends more attention to the black community and few, if any, specific programs or policies which would offend the corporate base of the GOP. (Her advocacy of "a Marshall Plan of sorts to rebuild our cities," with her support of lower taxes, reflects either a feint, or agreement with GWB's tax and spend policy.) Instead, she urges her party to "make better use of black veterans of past administrations" and establish "a more thoughtful and soulful politics."

In an election in which our predominately white nation was largely able to transcend issues of race and elect the superior candidate to the Presidency, it is regrettable, and perhaps telling, that a Republican analyst is publicly advocating a return to a more race-based politics.

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