Star Parker

Tavis Smiley, black journalist and TV host, is hosting a debate and the leading Republican candidates aren't coming.

The top four Republican candidates have announced they won't make it to his PBS-sponsored debate at Morgan State University on Sept. 27.

Now Smiley is using the occasion to assert that Republicans feel it's OK to "ignore people of color" and to call out black Republicans as disingenuous in claiming that their party can really be a home for blacks.

To those black Republicans, Smiley says: "I don't wanna hear it anymore. If you want black folks to take your party seriously, then your party ought to take black folks seriously."

Look, if anyone is being disingenuous here, it is Smiley.

Last week these same top four GOP candidates didn't make it to the Values Voters debate. Twenty-five percent of the nation's voters are evangelical Christians. Do we conclude that Republicans are ignoring them?

With a little sober analysis, it's not hard to understand that, with elections now starting two years before the fact, and debate invitations from every group except the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troupes, candidates have tough decisions to make regarding the use of precious time and money.

But Smiley isn't looking for sober analysis. He's looking for a reason to nail Republicans and show blacks that they don't care about them. So, rather than taking the heat himself for a poorly conceived event, first thing on his agenda has been to make the rounds to shows like Tom Joyner's, with huge black listening audiences, to badmouth Republicans.

Any wonder that Republicans might have some reservations about this guy?

But let's look a little closer.

If Smiley doesn't appreciate that the politics of primary season are much different from general-election politics, then you've really got to wonder what is going on with him as an analyst.

Primaries are about parties reaching into their own ranks to pick their nominees.

So it's no surprise that all the Democrats showed up for Smiley's PBS debate for them a few months ago at Howard University. Ninety percent of the black vote is Democratic, so this is a key base for the party.

Of course, they have to show up and pitch this crowd. Particularly this year, when one of the two leading Democratic candidates is black.

But why, when barely one in 10 Republican voters is black, would it be a good use of candidates' time, when they are battling each other for their party's nomination, to court blacks? The time for reaching across the divide is during the general election, not in the primary struggle.

Surely Smiley understands this basic reality that he is distorting into something else.

Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.