FT. LAUDERDALE -- Will Republicans ever fight back when it comes to charges of racism or racial insensitivity? Democrats—and many of their allies in the mainstream media-- are masters at putting Republicans on the defensive on race—even when significant numbers of their own in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania said that race was a factor in supporting Clinton over Obama .
Regardless of their racial “glass houses," when the political battles begin in earnest, you can be certain that many liberal Democrats and Obama supporters will throw the usual “racism stones” and make race baiting a key tool of the fall campaign. It has already begun. When Democratic Chairman Howard Dean recently said that Republicans use race baiting, hate and divisiveness, there was nary a peep from the National Republican Leadership or its surrogates. The same when he said that that the Republican National Committee could get a large number of people of color in a single room only if the “hotel staff” were present.
The Obama candidacy is cheapened when his supporters in the liberal media, including some black journalists, and their allies, are quick to label any criticisms or lack of support as racism. If working class white Democrats in Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, along the I-4 corridor and in the Panhandle do not identify with Obama’s elitist comments on guns, or religion or his liberal views on domestic and foreign policy they must be unenlightened “rednecks” or “hillbillies." If black or Hispanic, they must be “sellouts” for not supporting a “person of color." Indeed, it cheapens Obama’s success for his supporters to claim any criticism is race based.
When the racial shoe is on the other political foot, however, white liberals and the media do not sing the same “they must be racists” tune.
Just two years ago, Kenneth Blackwell, former secretary of state of Ohio and Republican nominee for governor, was the first black person to be a candidate for governor of a major party in the state. Lynn Swann was the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania and Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor in the state of Maryland and the first African-American to serve in statewide office, was candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Steele especially was the object of vicious racist attacks by black and white liberal Democrats. All three of these outstanding black candidates lost. Were the whites who voted against them racist and the blacks and Hispanics who supported their white opponents traitors? Where was the call for racial loyalty by blacks and the so-called enlightened liberal progressivism of the elite liberals in these elections? I do not recall hearing cries of racism from black or white Democrats—or Republicans. Were these men rejected because of race, philosophy or political affiliation? Liberals, black and white, would say it was—surprise--political philosophy.
If white and black liberals can have the luxury of rejecting black Republican candidates because of political affiliation and philosophy, why can’t black, white, and Hispanic Republicans or Independents oppose a black Democrat—Obama—because of his positions on domestic and foreign policy matters?
When it comes to race baiting, given their party’s history, Democrats should be the last group to criticize anyone on race and Republicans should not wimp out and be silent when they do. Republican leaders, black and white, should remind liberals and the media that it was the Democratic Party that gave us slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, opposition to anti-lynching laws and George Wallace-Lester Maddox stand-in-the-doorway obstruction to civil rights.
Let it not be forgotten that it was the Democratic Party—including Obama and Clinton who agreed with the process—that disenfranchised nearly two million Floridians until that process was reversed recently by the party’s Rules Committee. Prior to that action, the silence and lack of protest from state and national civil rights and liberties establishments, as well as black and liberal leaders, was deafening. Remember how they shouted “every vote counts” and descended on Florida attempting to blame Republicans for allegedly “disenfranchising" Florida voters in 2000?
The hypocritical message on disenfranchising voters: “If Democrats do it, no problem; if Republicans, then we protest."
Finally, Democrats should be reminded how they and their allies have turned race baiting and racial divisiveness into an art form as we saw in a Missouri Democratic Party ad implying that electing Republicans would bring about cross burnings and the 2000 NAACP ad accusing then Gov. George W. Bush of being complicit in the dragging death of James Byrd, even though Bush supported the death penalty for the perpetrators.
There is perhaps no better way for state Republican Parties and the McCain campaign to respond to such attacks than to take a cue from the Republican Party of Florida and work to develop their own corps of black, Hispanic and women surrogates who will fight back. These surrogates would let Democrats and their friends in the media know that race baiting will not be met with silence and the usual Republican “turn the other cheek” philosophy.
This would forcefully remind the media and the electorate that the issues in this campaign are not about race, gender or ethnicity, but rather who has the integrity, experience and judgment to be Commander in Chief; who best understands the threats to our freedoms from those who want to destroy us; and who will demand accountability in K-12 education so that black and Hispanic children can compete in the 21st century world. Such surrogates would remind working class and blue collar independents of all races that Obama and the Democrats will raise taxes, convert our health care system into a post office- like “take a number and stand in line” government monopoly, and will turn the other cheek to terrorists.
They would remind Americans and the world that it is the United States, at the direction of President George W. Bush, which has given billions to fight HIV/AIDS and disease in Africa; worked to end genocide in Darfur; sends millions in food aid and relief to disaster stricken areas of the world and supports free trade in our hemisphere to aid our neighbors and benefit our and their economies—all of which are ignored and discounted by the Obama machine. Democrats and their media allies usually ignore the good that American does in the world.Clarence V. McKee is communications chair of the Broward County Republican Party and a member of the African-American Advisory Council of the Republican Party of Florida.