At some point, black voters are going to rebel against racist ploys to keep them in their place -- safe in the clutches of the Democratic Party. But Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are hoping that it won't be this year -- which is why they aren't saying much about the despicable NAACP ads running against George W. Bush. The ads, in grainy black and white, show a pickup truck with a chain dragging across a dirt road. The voice-over is by Renee Mullins, the daughter of James Byrd, a black man dragged to his death two years ago chained to a pickup in Jasper, Texas.
Mullins accuses Gov. Bush of refusing to support a new hate-crimes bill, saying "It was like my father was killed all over again." The unmistakable message: Bush condones lynching. What the ad doesn't say is that two of the men who killed her father have been sentenced to death by a Texas court for the murder, while the third serves a life-sentence. What's more, the hate-crimes bill she supports would not have added one whit to their punishment. Nor does the ad mention the presidential election. It doesn't have to; it's airing in battleground states with large black populations, exactly the places where a large black turnout might tip the election to Gore.
Although the NAACP National Voter Fund is ostensibly both non-partisan and independent, its ad campaign comes just weeks after Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrews told reporters Oct. 9, "We're going back to Jasper, Texas, and talk about hate crimes." Does anyone seriously believe the NAACP and DNC efforts were not coordinated? The NAACP is able to air its ads thanks to an anonymous gift of some $10 million by a single individual. Considering all the fuss generated last week when a group of Republican businessmen spent a few thousand dollars to air an anti-Gore spot reminiscent of a famous 1964 campaign commercial predicting nuclear war, you'd think some enterprising journalist would try to discover the identity of the NAACP donor. Alas, no one in the media seems curious about who the NAACP benefactor might be or what his motives are.
But as loathsome as the lynching ad is, it's nothing new. For the last two national elections, Democrats and their allies have successfully increased black voter participation in key races through fear and deception.
As the Weekly Standard reported after the 1998 campaign, ads aimed at blacks warned "When you don't vote, you let another church explode. When you don't vote, you allow another cross to burn. ... Vote smart. Vote Democratic for Congress and the U.S. Senate." One Democrat congressman mailed voter cards to black constituents, which depicted snarling German shepherds and baton-swinging cops threatening 1960s-era black civil rights demonstrators with the message "A Voteless People Are a Hopeless People." Another Democrat radio ad accused a Republican gubernatorial candidate of being about to "take away 50 years of the civil rights movement," and said blacks who didn't vote against the Republican were "no different than the Ku Klux Klan."
Also in '98, Democrat Gov. Parris Glendening was able to defeat Republican challenger Ellen Suerbrey in a close election in Maryland by running ads that accused her of voting against "the civil rights act" and having a "civil rights record to be ashamed of." The "civil rights act" the spot referred to was a minor state measure that would have allowed sexual harassment suits to be filed in state courts instead of federal ones and was defeated by Democrats who controlled the state legislator, including a vote against the bill cast by the black speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. The man who produced those ads, Robert Shrum, now runs Al Gore's media campaign.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a liberal national group, estimates that at least 10 times as much money will be spent to turn out a large black vote this year as was spent in the past couple of elections. But if this money is used to frighten and misinform black voters, is this really advancing the civil rights of African Americans? Or is it just one more cynical attempt to scare them into voting against Republican candidates?