The state of African-American affairs in America
remains in a dismal state, as noted by the visual images evolving
from Hurricane Katrina. Unemployment, crime, healthcare and education
continue to plague black people nationwide. The lack of new black
leaders in all areas is a major factor. The Republican Party says
it is doing everything to draw black leaders into their ranks.
Illinois Democrat Barack Obama has given the GOP a real example
of what Republicans have been unwilling or unable to do with their
black candidates. Yet, the GOP has political capital like
Obama, but Republicans refuse to let them rise to the national
Mostly this is a control thing. During Republican
National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie’s reign, the GOP promoted
spokesmen like Armstrong Williams. The former syndicated columnist
was paid $241,000 to promote President Bush’s No Child Left Behind
program. The money was poorly spent because Williams, who has
no constituency, was unable to get any real support for the president.
The other face of black Republicans was Don King. The boxing promoter
was trotted out during the 2004 Republican Convention. Hardly
a conservative, King, like Williams is not viewed as a role model
by black Americans. Don King is also a convicted felon.
The fact remains that the GOP still avoids real
dialogue with the best African-American Republicans. This
list includes Paul Harris, Dylan Glenn and Nic Lott. All have
participated in White House and GOP national events. For example,
Lott and Harris both spoke at the 2000 Republican National Convention.
Paul Harris unmistakably has many of Obama’s qualities.
A father of three, Harris is happily married. He is a conservative,
Catholic and attends church regularly. In Virginia, Harris won
landslide victories in 1997 and 2000, becoming the first black
Republican elected to the House in more than a century. Harris
then served for two years at the Department of Justice under John
Ashcroft. Since returning to the private sector, the GOP has failed
to utilize Harris’ polished political skills and experience for
some greater cause.
Dylan Glenn is another black conservative that has
been waiting in the wings. Despite support from Newt Gingrich
and Colin Powell, Glenn has failed on three attempts to win a
congressional seat in Georgia. Glenn served as a policy analyst
in the White House Office of Domestic Policy during the presidency
of George H.W. Bush. Glenn was also Special Assistant to President
George W. Bush in the White House, during which time he was on
the National Economic Council advising the President on economic
and domestic policy concerns.
In addition to his strong White House experience,
Glenn is founder of The Earth Conservation Corps, a White House
initiative under President George H.W. Bush that provides opportunity
to at-risk youth through environmental conservation work. The
Earth Conservation is one of the rare programs that have successfully
addressed the challenges of inner city youth, providing them a
positive outlet to channel their energies.
Glenn was pulled from the White House to run the
Georgia campaign of Sonny Purdue. After Purdue’s victory, Glenn
was not given another major role in the party. Instead he was
named Purdue’s Deputy Chief of Staff. From the president’s adviser
to deputy chief of staff for a governor, the decline in Glenn’s
position could not have been more dramatic. In effect, Glenn’s
success was rewarded with a demotion, under the watchful eye of
Yet, the Republican National Committee website insists
they are “Grooming Black Candidates.” RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman
suggests that Lynn Swann will run for Governor of Pennsylvania.
Swann has not announced he will run yet, but has begun an unofficial
campaign against Governor Ed Rendell. A New York Times article
suggests that Republicans see Swann “as an underdog against Mr.
Rendell.” It would seem like a replay of the Illinois senate race
where Obama won a landslide victory against black Republican Alan
Keyes. Black candidates like Swann and even Glenn cannot win without
overwhelming Republican support. But former RNC Chairmen Marc
Racicot and Ed Gillespie and now Mehlman are unwilling to support
these candidates, especially when they need it most on the campaign
Meanwhile, Mehlman has not reached out to Glenn,
Lott or Harris. In a Washington Post online discussion, White
House insider Michael Fletcher said, “The fact remains that black
voters largely reject the political overtures of conservatives
like Bush. And that is going to affect the number of people who
get into these jobs, which often require a well connected sponsor.”
Nic Lott lists J.C. Watts, Senator Trent Lott and Governor Haley
Barbour as his references. Yet after helping Barbour win his campaign
in Mississippi, Lott was awarded with a Public Affairs position
in the state penitentiary. For Lott moving from a successful campaign
to serving time in a prison PR job is a sad irony. He was the
first African-American student body president at the University
of Mississippi. An internet google search for Nic Lott’s
name nets 304 hits. Lott was interviewed by CNN when Trent Lott,
no relation, got into trouble for glorifying Strom Thurmond. CNN
can chat with Nic Lott on national television, but his own party
Lott, Glenn and Harris should be in high level senior
positions with the Bush Administration and/or the Republican National
Committee. Only then will they have the opportunity to gain the
national popularity and visibility that Barack Obama is enjoying.
African-Americans also need these new leaders to rise up and provide
their communities with new solutions to old problems.
Wamara Mwine advises attorneys, politicians and
church leaders in crisis-media and public relations. In 2001,
Mwine wrote an initiative on Human Capital Management for the
White House. He can be reached at [email protected].