A Sad Week for Black Republicans
Like the spotted owl or the Pacific sea otter, Black Republicans are something of an endangered species. This week, a select group of African-American conservatives and their GOP allies showed why.
On Monday, the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) debuted ads declaring that Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan and that Martin Luther King Junior was a member of the GOP. While no evidence apparently supports the group's claim that King was a Republican, the Klan's roots in the post-Civil War Democratic south are pretty clear. What is also quite clear, however, is that since the civil rights movement of the mid-1960's, Southern racists have happily found in a new home in the Republican Party. It's no wonder that Michael Steele, the African-American Republican Senate candidate, declared the NBRA spots "insulting to Marylanders" and asked the group to stop running them in his state.
Saxby Chambliss, Steele's would-be Senate colleague from Georgia, didn't make matters any easier for black Republicans this week. During a closed door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee discussing American intelligence capabilities, Chambliss reportedly declared that the South would have won the Civil War if it had better intelligence, adding "We'd be quoting Jefferson Davis, not Lincoln." Chambliss, who defeated incumbent and triple Vietnam War amputee Max Cleland by comparing him to Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, defended his longing for Southern victory by claiming that his actual words were "if General J.E.B. Stuart had had better intelligence, we'd all be meeting in Richmond right now." (Note to the NBRA: the Ku Klux Klan was founded by Stuart's fellow Confederate legend Nathan Bedford Forrest.)
Chambliss' Confederate nostalgia (widely shared among leading Republicans, by the way), is only the latest bizarre Republican linkage of the American Civil War and the war in Iraq. The Chambliss gaffe came within days of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's disturbing historical revisionism, "I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'"
And so it goes for that loneliest of politicians, the black Republican. Even as the NBRA runs its ill-conceived ads, the GOP continues to play the race card for the 2006 mid-terms. George Allen has his Macaca and Arnold Schwarzenegger his preferred "hot" mix of black and Latino blood. And while President Bush proclaims the track, the lottery and dice games the primary economic activities of African-Americans, RNC chairman Ken Mehlman confused victim and villain in the brutal hate crime killing of James Byrd.
Meanwhile, Michael Steele trails in Maryland, while Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell are getting drubbed in the gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania and Ohio, respectively. Black Republicans not only have the past wrong; their future isn't looking too bright, either.