A strange thing about President Bush's recent address to the NAACP annual meeting was the lack of pretense that this was anything but a partisan affair.
Referring to NAACP president Bruce Gordon, Bush said, "I don't expect Bruce to become a Republican _ and neither do you."
The president, later in his remarks, added, "I consider it a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African American community. For too long my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party."
This causes me to ask two questions. First, if the president felt that he was effectively addressing the black national chapter of the Democratic Party, what was he trying to accomplish? Second, is it really accurate to say that the Republican Party "let go of its historic ties with the African American community?"
On the second point, with due respect to our president, I think it is the African-American community that has let go of its historic ties to the party of Lincoln.
When I think of Lincoln I think of emancipation. That bold stroke of the pen finally did what this nation was struggling to do for a hundred years _ liberate its black slaves.
Lincoln believed in freedom _ freedom for all.
The agenda of the Republican Party of recent years, an agenda fought tooth and nail by the Democratic Party and by the NAACP, has been an agenda of emancipation.
Let parents choose where to send their child to school. Emancipate them from the tyranny of a public school monopoly. Let working Americans take ownership of their social security contributions and build equity in their own retirement savings accounts. Emancipate American workers from the tyranny of the payroll tax and government-controlled retirement.
Lincoln took two great lies head on when he emancipated the slaves. The lie that one man should or could control another's life. And the lie that the African slaves could not be free.
It is the greatest of ironies that both these great lies animate the opposition of the Democratic Party _ and the NAACP _ to emancipating reforms like school choice and private retirement accounts. They believe that government and politicians should control the education choice of private citizens and should control savings and retirement funds of poor people. And they don't believe that African-Americans can be free and take care of themselves.
So what was President Bush trying to accomplish with his address to the NAACP?
Maybe he thought that he could plant the seeds of change by showing up, being civil and cordial, and slipping in a few remarks about choice and ownership.