When a Democratic presidential candidate speaks to the Congressional Black Caucus, it's a family affair.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry spoke at the caucus' recent legislative conference and clearly didn't feel he was there to win support. Like most Democrat leaders, Kerry thinks that being a Democrat is in and of itself enough to capture the black vote. He simply used the occasion for some good Democratic fun - attacking Republicans.
Particularly entertaining was the Kerry claim that blacks are not welcome in the Bush administration. It is, of course, no challenge to note the major black appointments that Bush has made (secretary of state, national security advisor, secretary of education, secretary of housing and urban development). But beyond that, consider the sensitivity of these appointments.
Somehow it is not meaningful to Kerry and the Congressional Black Caucus that President Bush has given blacks - Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice - central positions of authority for the single most important issue confronting the nation today: national security.
Either Bush has demonstrated confidence in the ability and skills of two black Americans that is far beyond that of any previous president, or, by placing individuals in highly sensitive positions involving national security for political reasons and not because they are qualified, the president is as cynical and irresponsible as Kerry might claim.
Kerry claimed that the door to the White House is off limits to blacks. Yet, one week before the conference, black pro-life leaders from across the country were at the White House. In fact, I cannot recall a month this year that a group of black leaders has not been in the White House, including a delegation I led personally in February.
Kerry claimed that the Republican Party wants to suppress the black vote. Yet, the number of African American delegates at the Republican National Convention had tripled since 2000 and hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to spread the president's message of freedom and ownership in urban communities across the country.
So while the black political power structure has a good laugh with its candidate, the press corps shouldn't get too excited. It should instead notice that Republicans nationwide are captivating numbers of black voters with a new vision.
The real news is taking place in black churches. Black pastors are waking up to what politics such as Kerry's have done to their communities. They are beginning to understand that freedom and ownership, family and values are the formula for African American revival and survival - not factors driven by politics but factors that should drive politics.
The Kerry/Edwards vision is one of government continuing to play a central and growing role in the everyday decisions of Americans. The Bush/Cheney vision is one of shifting these decisions to individuals, families and local communities.
Slowly, African Americans are beginning to appreciate that ownership and personal control will bring them closer to their dreams than still more government.
Health care costs continue to escalate at double-digit rates and Kerry's answer is to commit to more government spending. He ignores the fact that runaway costs point to an absence of market discipline. The projected cost of his own recently released health care proposal has been estimated at $1.6 trillion.
Even as Democrats continue to meet and make fun of Republicans, the connection between ownership and prosperity becomes increasingly evident to the communities they claim to represent.