Monday, August 01, 2005

Ken Mehlman Needs to Speak to John Roberts

A little over two weeks ago, Ken Mehlman stood in front of NAACP members at the organization's annual convention and apologized for the Republican Party's "Southern strategy" of using racial unrest to court the votes of Southern whites who, at the time the strategy was devised, in the 1960s, were overwhelmingly Democratic.

"Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. ...I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Seems like a blatantly political move, given that apologizing in 2005 for the Republicans' use of the Southern strategy in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s is pretty much risk-free. The South is solidly Republican now, and reaching out to black voters is unlikely to cost the GOP any white votes.

I doubt that the Republican Party is going to be able to win over blacks in significant numbers just by apologizing for past racist political strategies. Especially when the Republican president, presented with the need to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court, chooses to nominate a hard-right conservative with a history of opposition to civil rights legislation.

If George W. Bush and the RNC want to woo African-Americans to their side, they have to do better than a guy with a record on civil rights issues that looks like this:

He wrote vigorous defenses ... of the administration's version of a voting rights bill, opposed by Congress, that would have narrowed the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He challenged arguments by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in favor of busing and affirmative action. He described a Supreme Court decision broadening the rights of individuals to sue states for civil rights violations as causing "damage" to administration policies, and he urged that legislation be drafted to reverse it. And he wrote a memo arguing that it was constitutionally acceptable for Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its ability to hear broad classes of civil rights cases.

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