On July 16 Senator McCain will address the NAACP at its national convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. It will give him a historic opportunity to lay out his vision for individual empowerment, and offer concrete solutions for solving the challenges facing many African-Americans today.
For all the talk of post-racial politics, the Obama camp tries to make his campaign all about race when he speaks to African-American audiences.
When campaigning for Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee for a U.S. Senate seat in 2006, Senator Obama off-handedly told an audience of African-Americans at a rally that they needed to vote for Mr. Ford because Mr. Obama was lonely in the U.S. Senate. There already were 45 Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Obama claimed to be lonely because he was the only African-American in the Senate. He was asking those voters to cast their votes in large measure on the basis of racial pride.
Mr. Obamas surrogates will attempt to do the same thing at the NAACP convention. They will urge NAACP members and others to vote for an African-American for president largely out of racial pride. But is that sufficient reason alone to cast this important vote?
Mr. McCains challenge is to redefine that choice. He must make the case that every Americans vote, regardless of their skin color, should be based on who is the better candidate. He must challenge them to rise above racial politics. He must urge the attendees to cast their votes from a forward-looking perspective of what is best for all Americans.
There are several policies he can advocate that would make that challenge.
The first is school choice. Many public schools have failed our children. Unfortunately most of those schools are inner-city ones filled with African-American children, where standards are low, discipline is lax, and the dropout rate is high. School choice enables parents to choose a school that will best educate their child. The key to economic prosperity and a brighter future is through giving children a first-rate education, not mindlessly throwing money at an ineffective public school system that fails to deliver. The success of Washington, D.C.s school voucher program proves this.
The second is energy independence. High fuel prices hit lower-income minority communities hard because they feel the price increases more than many. Mr. McCain must press his full-spectrum energy agenda, including everything from domestic exploration and refining to nuclear power to wind and solar to cars that do not use gasoline. He must make the case that this will drastically reduce fuel prices, and create millions of new jobs.