On the national level, we see this shift in the appointments of Gen. Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser. Every time Dr. Rice answers a question from the 9-11 commission, she suggest an alternative to the racial populists; she proclaims that American blacks are masters of their own destiny. She doesn't respond with a stream of outdated racial covenants. She responds with informed discussion of foreign policy. She doesn't talk about getting a seat at the table. She takes charge of the table.
That is a meaningful change, and one that has created a real irony: The more the Democrats use the 9-11 commission to assail the Bush administration, the more the public understands that the Republican Party offers opportunities for blacks that extend beyond all the old covenants, and the more they end up helping the Republican Party usher in a new chapter in the black political narrative.