Does the Democratic Party take blacks for granted?

By Larry Elder

Editor’s note: The following column contains language in the second sentence of the thirteenth paragraph that may be offensive to some readers.

In analyzing the recent Democratic bath in the off-year election, black Representative Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., defeated in her own primary, accused the Democratic Party of “taking black voters for granted.” Tavis Smiley, black NPR commentator, made the same assertion while chastising his guest, former Vice President Al Gore, for allegedly committing the same crime.

The Democrats-take-black-votes-for-granted argument goes as follows: Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe insulted blacks by failing to provide greater financial assistance to black Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Carl McCall. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend failed to choose a black running mate, instead selecting a Republican-turned-Democrat. Former Vice President Al Gore insulted blacks in failing to more aggressively challenge allegations of Florida black “voter disenfranchisement.” Thus, goes the reasoning, Democrats “take black voters for granted.”

Three points demonstrate the faultiness of this reasoning.

First, what more can Democrats offer blacks – that would actually improve things – yet still remain Democrats? Social programs? Job-training programs do not work. Black labor lawyer Peter Kirsanow, currently a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, says, “Federal job-training programs have varying degrees of success. The effectiveness is marginal at best. Others simply compound the unemployment problem with a waste of taxpayer money. There is little evidence that the effect of government-training programs upon employment is more than trivial.”

Head Start? A 1995 Rand Corp. study found that Head Start helped white kids but not black kids. Any gains black kids made in Head Start faded over time.

Enterprise zones? According to the liberal New Republic, “Enterprise zones in their current form may actually be more of a hindrance than a help. In fact, they may come to engender exactly the kind of false hope perpetrated by the social programs of the past so deplored by conservatives like [Jack] Kemp. Enterprise zones can’t address the deepest problems of the ghetto: welfare dependency, teen-age pregnancy and broken families, drug addiction, crime and men and women who are not only unemployed, but also unemployable.”

Affirmative action? The Detroit News analyzed the effect of racial preferences on graduation rates. “Among black students who were freshmen in 1994, just 40 percent got their diplomas after six years, compared to 61 percent of white students and 74 percent of Asians. The state’s universities have special programs aimed at helping black students meet financial, social and academic challenges, but graduation rates for blacks haven’t improved consistently over the past decade, the News found. Universities knowingly admit students who have a high chance of failing. The 10 years’ worth of data analyzed by the News shows that the more selective a university is in choosing its students, the more likely its students are to graduate.”

Reparations? Sure, this pleases extreme lefties like McKinney, but say good-bye to “moderate Democrats,” independents and swing votes.

Second, promising ideas like vouchers runs counter to the Democratic Party’s teachers’-unions base. Even though polls show inner-city parents want educational choice, the Democratic Party opposes it, as do the major teachers’ unions.

Blacks stand to benefit more from choice in Social Security than virtually any other group. But, again, the Democratic Party opposes this personal responsibility concept, as does the Black Congressional Caucus.

Crime remains a huge problem in the inner city, but “black leaders” like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, consistently hurl baseless charges of racism and racial profiling. This makes cops less proactive, thus emboldening criminals, causing an increase in crime.

The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 produced a dramatic decline in caseloads of all races, yet half the Democratic Party voted against it, as did the Congressional Black Caucus.

And third, given the Democrats’ near pathological demonization of the Republican Party, what more does the Party need to say or do to attract black voters? Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., said of the 1994 Republican Party, “They don’t say ‘spic’ or ‘nigger’ any more. They say ‘let’s cut taxes.'” Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s former campaign manager, called the Republican Party the “party of the white boys.” NAACP Chairman Julian Bond derided the George W. Bush Cabinet appointees as having come from “the Taliban wing” of the Republican Party. Congresswoman Waters, who formerly chaired the Black Congressional Caucus, refers to the Republican Party as “the enemy,” and once called Republican former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan “a plantation owner.” In a rally at a black church, Vice President Al Gore, during the 2000 presidential campaign, called the election a referendum of “good and evil.”

Mission accomplished. Many blacks now flat-out despise Republicans and would never vote for one. Why, even the father of retiring black Congressman J.C. Watts, R-Okla., once said, “A black person voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.” Or, as someone once put it, the Democratic Party has convinced blacks that Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat and George Wallace a Republican.