Send in the Clowns:
The GOP’s two-ring Black "outreach" circus





To the outside observer, the Republican Party may seem to have no coherent plan for Black America. Actually, the GOP has two game plans. One is a farcical show of "inclusion" through appointments and hiring, a petty cash and publicity diversion designed to have no significant effect on GOP policy or its strategic position as the White Man's Party. Armstrong Williams is Clown-in-Chief in this ring of the circus, but it's really just a sideshow.

The other game is pure subversion, far more sophisticated and deadly. The goal is to sow confusion and chaos among Black Democrats, the party's only dependable mass base. This ring of the circus is where the real action - and money - is, the GOP's strategic Black game plan.

The Sideshow

House Republican leader Tom DeLay spent much of last week going through the motions of paying attention to Black columnist-consultant Armstrong Williams, the central player in what the Washington Post editorially derided as a Republican "affirmative action plan" for Black conservatives. Williams, for whom Hard Right Republicanism is the Living Word, pretended to slap his clients into racial sensitivity, demanding that they renounce lily-whiteness and buy into his bag of Black resumes. (The Post editorial, with wicked sarcasm, had Williams describing a roomful of whites turning "ashen and silent" under his tirade.)

Armstrong's pills for what ails the GOP were no problem at all for Tom DeLay to swallow. In fact, the archconservative seemed quite pleased with himself when he told an AP reporter, "One of our problems was, in the hiring of African-Americans, we can't find good conservative African-Americans to work for us." (It's so hard to get good help these days.) But a package from Armstrong Williams had arrived, and "I've got 20 resumes now of young conservatives."

Armstrong Williams' contrived rebellion consists of holding white Republicans' hands, while they perform painless exercises. "It's our responsibility to help them," said Strom Thurmond's Black protégé.

Of the 20,000 staffers on Capitol Hill, about 8 percent are African American, according to Black Republican Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. About one percent are Black Republicans.

On the West Coast, the same marginal drama occupies media attention. Shannon Reeves, top Black in the California Republican Party and renegade Oakland NAACP chief, is locked in epic combat with state party Vice Chairman Bill Back, a fan of the Confederacy. Back endorsed and distributed a tract that lamented the plight of emancipated slaves because "most of the poor devils had no experience fending for themselves."

Cut that out, cried Reeves! He quickly fired off an open letter to the Los Angeles Times, denouncing Back's "bigoted propaganda." GOP strategist Kevin Spillane chimed in: "What this whole episode demonstrates is that there continues to be a tremendous degree of insensitivity among Republican leaders about how to handle race issues."

What is the point, here? That moss-backed bigots should learn to bite their tongues? That the Republican Party's legislative agenda will be affected by the addition of a few more Black staffers - or 100 more?

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also complained about his party's racial inertia. "It took us the last two years to convince our members that actually having a [Black-oriented] communications plan and a message and a strategy by which to implement
that is a good thing," he told the congressional newspaper The Hill. However, Santorum's eyes are focused on the legislation agenda, which is where the rest of us ought to be looking.

Buying the Black church

The core of the GOP plan to wreak havoc in the Black body politic is faith-based funding of Black churches. That's the real show in this circus, and the clowns in that ring wear clerical collars.

"I would argue that roughly a third of the African American community are culturally and fiscally fairly conservative," Santorum said. "That's a block that we should get if we do a good job communicating what we're all about and why it makes sense for them to vote for us."

The actual Republican National Committee goal is to garner 15 to 20 percent of the Black vote in 2004, enough to dash Democratic hopes of resurgence and convince white Republicans that they are members of an integrated party.

Yet Black congregations have not been significantly swayed in the past by Republican cultural and fiscal messages. This time, the plan is to bribe the preachers. George Bush has instructed five of his cabinet departments to make hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts available to the Black clergy. (See "De-funding the Right Rev. Dr. Greedygut," January 2.) His $600 million State of the Union pitch for faith-based drug "rehabilitation" programs was developed for Black churches by the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, the GOP's Hard Right brain. Under other Republican legislation, church buildings could be partially financed with federal money. Black churches are also prime targets for the $756 million that Bush wants this Congress to spend on private school vouchers.

Much of what goes on in Black Republican circles is of no lasting impact: Armstrong Williams' hollow bombast, Condoleezza Rice's ceremonial presence, Shannon Reeve's bickering with racists.

However, faith-based funding and school vouchers, if passed, have the potential to thoroughly corrupt Black American politics for many years to come. "All of those will be issues that will be coming out of the box within the month," said Senator Santorum.

We will soon see what the Congressional Black Caucus - and the Black church - are made of.

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Issue Number 28
February 6, 2003
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Other commentaries in this issue:

Condoleezza: Appointee-in-Chief... Shock, awe and revulsion... Plain language on Blacks and Hispanics

The Issues
Desegregating U.S. African policy... Haitian poor ignore capital "strike"... A more colorful anti-war movement

Guest Commentary 1
"Shrub" Bush's Pathological Focus On Saddam Hussein by Alvin Wyman Walker, PhD, PD, PC

Guest Commentary 2
...AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST: Shunned DC Demands Full Voting Rights, First Primary By Sean Tenner

Commentaries in Issue 27 January 30, 2003:

Commentary 1
The Mother Of All War Shows

Commentary 2
Rumsfeld: Dead Soldiers Count for Nothing

Condoleezza: Traitor, or not?... Letters from the anti-war front... Rev. Dr. Greedygut redux

The Issues
Desegregating U.S. African policy... Haitian poor ignore capital "strike"... A more colorful anti-war movement

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.