For all their scoffing at former president
Clinton's "I feel your pain" oversentimentality, Republicans seem
to have fallen prey to the same affliction. One can't help wondering,
though, about this sudden respectful compassion for certain blacks
in the wake of a divisive election and a weakened Democratic Party.
First came Mayor Rudy Giuliani's boast that, by ignoring the
city's black leaders, he'd been blacks' dream mayor. "[T]he things
we've done are better for the community than the things they've
been fighting for the last 20 to 30 years," he crowed. Until he'd
emancipated them, blacks had kept other blacks "enslaved" and
"oppressed." With aggressive policing, an inhospitable welfare
system and opposition to affirmative action, he'd saved blacks'
villages by burning them.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Florida Gov. Jeb
Bush was overcome as he addressed a black conservative group recently.
"I'm not crying for me. I'm crying for you, Leslie [Steele], and
others who have to make the ultimate sacrifice," he wept, as she
brought him a tissue paper onstage. Steele, an African American,
claims that blacks harass her because she works for a governor
only 8 percent of them approve of. "Leslie has to take grief for
me, not because of the truth but because of perceptions," he wept.
To paraphrase Eddie Murphy in his infamous "Saturday Night Live"
performance as an undercover white: what silly Negroes. (My former
editor) Andrew Sullivan advises the GOP against "[k]issing up
to" Jesse Jackson. To do so "would be a slap in the face to the
brave 10 per cent of blacks who voted for W."
Blacks are better off under Giuliani, whether they think so or
not? Working for a Republican is the "ultimate sacrifice"? Voting
for one makes you brave? Tugged heartstrings notwithstanding,
one might well smell a divide-and-conquer strategy emanating from
the VRWC (vast right-wing conspiracy) these days. Political machinations,
however crafty, are nothing new and certainly not inherently blameworthy.
But this particular one, while indisputably brilliant, is laced
with equal parts contempt and condescension.
How else to interpret such fulsome bootlicking except that with
blacks there is always danger, even for deviating from the party
line? How else but that only the paltry few free-thinking blacks
smart enough to escape Pavlovian party loyalty and a self-destructive
liberality are deemed worthy of whites' all-important respect?
One can't object to black Republicans. One can, however, object
to a political equation that deems the only good black a Republican
one. By patting them on the head and affixing spit-sticky gold
stars to their foreheads, the GOP is gambling that those so rewarded
won't notice they've been promoted to mere credits to their race.
One wonders when Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice will shout:
"Ixnay on the ave-bray crap! Just treat me like a Republican."
Every good conspiracy proceeds on multiple fronts, so it wasn't
long before more stout-hearted Republicans took their cues for
Phase II of The Plan. This phalanx, the Whites Who Can Say No
Team, is making it clear that no more Negro nonsense will be tolerated.
In agreeing to detente last week with NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume,
wily House Leader Dick Armey flipped the script on him. He insisted
they also discuss the "all too-common practice [of spreading]
unfounded, racially charged falsehoods against Republicans for
political advantage." He used ingenious phrases like "reverse
race-baiting" and "racial McCarthyism."
Former speaker Newt Gingrich went even further. "Jesse Jackson
doesn't want an honest debate," he told black reporters. Neither
does Mfume. "They are going to yell racism," something Republicans
are incapable of exhibiting, apparently. This gambit we shall
designate the "I know you are, but what am I?" offensive.
If one thing is certain as the victorious GOP contemplates world
domination, it's that the concept of "racism" must be gnawed to
jabberwockian meaninglessness when uttered by a minority. All
such a wackily brazen strategy requires is cojones the size of
the president's home state and an utter belief in the purity of
a Republican heart. How can it fail?
As the final tentacle of the GOP/VRWC strategy to neuter any
black leaders it can't woo, President Bush has showered attention
on urban America's shock troops, the bridesmaids of black political
leadership -- the ministers and community activists on the ghetto's
front lines. Through his faith-based organizations initiative
and the strategic appointment of highly visible and very brave
minorities to his administration, he's engineered the perfect
end-around the entrenched black political class.
Once you've reduced the Rev. Jesse Jackson to statements like,
"the magnitude of America's unfinished business is above the church,"
your work as an apparatchik in the VRWC is done. Time to collect
your 40 acres and that mule. Not bad for a president who needs
to get hooked on phonics. Maybe those are tears of joy in Republicans'