It's a message that the "party of Lincoln" has increasingly been trying to send. Republican outreach efforts are credited with increasing President Bush's share of the black vote from eight percent in 2000 to about 12 in 2004. There are miles to go yet (obviously), but it's progress. And it's something that Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman is devoted to -- increasing black Americans' identification with the Republican party -- speaking about it passionately both privately and publicly.
Addressing an NAACP audience last fall, Mehlman said, "If you give us a chance, we'll give you a choice." That's good stuff we all go for, but Mehlman doesn't have the power that Ken Blackwell does to pull it off. In one electoral triumph, Blackwell could achieve what no task force, outreach program or powerful speech ever will -- making it "safe" for blacks to routinely vote Republican instead of being looked at as anomalies.
And Blackwell would do it in the healthiest way possible -- without ever playing up race. "Blackwell is betting," Malanga writes, "that many black Americans may be ready for a candidate, like him, who doesn't preach victimology and doesn't see the world almost entirely in racial terms. Blackwell is a post-racial, post-civil rights campaigner; race rarely enters into his speeches and is barely a part of his political platform. And even when Blackwell does address racial issues -- the achievement gap between black and white students, for instance -- it's to tout free-market solutions like vouchers and charter schools." Which is why, Blackwell could prove to be "Jesse Jackson's worst nightmare."