I know that people feel an obligation to predict a close presidential race, but all signs point to a blow-out for Obama. Only an excess of complacency and a string of egregious errors would be likely to usher McCain into the White House and so far Sen. Obama has shown no inclination to crack under pressure. Nevertheless, people must give lip service to the notion that McCain has a fighting chance and the Republican election machinery is grinding its gears and trying to shift out of neutral.
This weekend I received a message about the 2008 Victory Plan that will supposedly propel the GOP nominee toward electoral triumph. According to the National Black Republican Association, the 2008 Victory Plan is elegant in its simplicity: To win, all John McCain has to do is win 25% of the black vote.
Excuse me? Twenty-five percent?. Did someone forget a decimal point between the two and the five? Hillary couldn't rack up 25% against Obama. In what alternate universe can J. Sidney McCain III dream of such a feat?
The delusion known as the 2008 Victory Plan has four steps:
MLK billboards? That's right. They claim that Martin Luther King, Jr., was a registered Republican. While that sounds weird today, it shouldn't be that surprising if it were true. Although no one has turned up a GOP registration card signed by Martin Luther King, Jr., we know his father was a member. After all, the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln, the president who issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Democratic Party was the party of Jim Crow and the Solid South. Black voters had every reason to sign up with the GOP.
- Recruit and train black church and community leaders to spread our conservative Republican message
- Script, produce and air our hard-hitting radio and TV ads for black radio and TV outlets
- Put up MLK billboards across America
- Publish and distribute our very effective magazine, The Black Republican
The National Black Republican Association is nostalgic for the good old days and argues that African Americans should come home to the Republican Party. As cited approvingly by NBRA chair Frances Rice, “the Democrat Party is as it always has been, the party of the four S's: Slavery, Secession, Segregation and now Socialism.” What the NBRA seems to have missed, however, is that Richard Nixon's deliberate “Southern strategy” brought the Republican Party electoral victories in the short term at the cost of abandoning the black voter. Nixon embarked on a campaign to attract the votes of Southern whites who were disaffected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those measures were pushed by President Lyndon Johnson, a Southern Democrat who broke with his party's racist heritage.
Once established in the White House, Nixon began to pay off his political debts to his Southern supporters with such actions as the Supreme Court nominations of Clement Haynesworth and G. Harrold Carswell. Both nominations were defeated when the former turned out to be insufficiently careful about recusing himself in cases where he had a financial interest and the latter was shown to be an utter mediocrity who had defended segregation. In response to Nixon's solicitous pandering, white voters in the Solid South began to build today's GOP domination of their politics. Local politicians adapted to the trend. Although he had been a protege of Lyndon Johnson, leading Southern Democrats like John Connally abandoned the Democratic Party and signed up with the GOP.
While the Republican Party now holds sway over the Solid South, it's paid a steep price in terms of the African American vote. The party of Lincoln now commands the allegiance of approximately 4% of black voters. In arguing that African Americans should cling to their Republican heritage, the National Black Republican Association is stuck with such ancient talking points as Democratic opposition to civil rights. The NBRA cites such examples as Sen. Robert Byrd's former membership in the Ku Klux Klan, as if his mistakes of many decades ago have any significance in 2008, a time in which Byrd enjoys a 100% rating from the NAACP and is on record as a supporter of Sen. Obama's presidential campaign.
The Republican Party's 25% pipe dream isn't even new. In 2004 Ed Gillespie was chairman of the Republican National Committee and he was touting the GOP's plans to make inroads into the minority community. What was the result of that earlier strenuous effort? George W. Bush's share of the black vote rose from a minuscule 8% in 2000 to an anemic 11% in 2004. The 2008 Victory Plan envisages Sen. McCain more than doubling President Bush's 2004 share of the black vote in a campaign against Sen. Barack Obama. Is this a realistic prospect?
I'm sure I don't need to tell you the answer.