I watched the Republican debate from Baltimore on PBS last week, or at least as much of it as I could take. It was supposed to be a debate in which Black Americans asked questions. Indeed they did. The only trouble was that neither Former Senator Fred D. Thompson (R-TN), Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), Former Mayor Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani nor Senator John S. McCain, III (R-AZ) was there. They offered excuses. It was clear that the top four Republican candidates didn't want to be there. So we had an evening of second-tier candidates, plus Alan Keyes, entertaining us. I don't recall how many times Alan Keyes has run for President but I nearly have memorized his speeches. The man is brilliant and this time the Republicans had a Black man replying to Black questioners.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) correctly stated that Blacks want what all Americans want. I wish the Republicans would learn that lesson. In 1960, when I joined the staff of WLIP in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I worked with a Black DJ named Hal Mason. I have not heard from Hal for many, many years so I believe that he has passed to his eternal reward inasmuch as he was considerably older than I. But what Old Hal said stuck in my mind these many years. I asked Mason why Republicans were defeated repeatedly in Black precincts. He replied, "We never see them." I asked what he meant. He said, "Democrats show up repeatedly all year long at events in the Black community. If you see a Republican you see him on the day before an election." When I asked him what kind of events, he said, "Anything in the community: events at fire stations, church picnics, celebrations of anniversaries, you name it. The Democrats are always there. You wouldn't find a Republican there unless he had a heart attack driving through town. But come to think of it, Republicans don't drive through this part of town." What he said has stuck with me, but I never have been able to convince the Republicans that Mason was correct.
This recent Republican debate is another example of what Hal said. Few Republican candidates can be found among the Black community in Baltimore. At least it was better than the Hispanic event, which had to be cancelled because no one showed up. What is true of the Black community is also true of Hispanics. I want assimilation. When people learn to speak English and consider themselves Americans they don't lose their cultural identity. Consequently, when people organize events in their communities they want folks from both political parties to show up. But Republicans don't. In many cases they perceive themselves to be too good for such an assignment.