Grooming a new generation of black Republican leaders is perhaps the greatest task currently facing the Republican Party.
That's the opinion of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who told me, "Until the Republican Party is able to have black candidates win, not only in black districts but in white districts, only then will we begin to regain some authority on the race issue."
What DeLay is really saying - and what anyone who gives the matter any thought realizes - is that the Republicans will not retain long-term, stable control of government unless they do a better job establishing legitimacy with minority voters.
Presently, blacks don't vote Republican because they don't feel like they're welcome in the party. Makes sense. On the federal level, the Republicans don't have a single black senator or congressperson. The party's greatest locus of support is in rural and suburban areas.
Republican candidates with experience as big-city officials, who maintain regular association with black venues, tend to do OK with black voters. But, as we know, the GOP is not a party of big-city officials. On the whole, black American communities and venues remain unfamiliar turf for Republicans.
By contrast, about one-quarter of the membership of the Democratic National Committee is black. This strong representation within the party means more American blacks get hired by - and elected to - government at every level, under the party's auspices. This creates a positive ripple effect throughout the community. Black politicians typically maintain close associations with other black community figures such as ministers, teachers, entrepreneurs and union officials. These interlocking relationships proclaim to African-Americans that they are part of the Democratic Party.
The Republicans need to take a page from the Democrats and do a better job of grooming black elected officials who can carry their message into the community - because the black community is ripe for appeal. More and more black Americans are coming to the conclusion that liberalism has not solved their most basic problems. Instead, it has put us in the mindset that we have to be fed government programs, instead of being given access to capital and the opportunity to create our own jobs. The younger generation of black Americans is saying it is time to move beyond the basic covenants of liberalism and finally face who we are and what we need, not solely as blacks, but as individuals.
Lacking the psychic scars of their parents and grandparents, young blacks are more optimistic about the idea - and the reality - of being part of the middle class. They don't just want a seat at the table. They expect to own the house.