Democrats, republicans and blacks

Thomas Sowell
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Posted: Sep 28, 2000 12:00 AM

NO GROUP votes more solidly for the Democrats than blacks -- and no group suffers more as a result than blacks. Political spin makes Democrats the best friends of blacks, the party of civil rights laws, the party of affirmative action and the party of social programs to help the poor in general and blacks in particular. But spin and facts are very different things.

The fact is that a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite all the media hype about the confederate flag flying over the state capitol in South Carolina, no Republican put that flag there. The Democrats' Senator Fritz Hollings, who was governor of South Carolina in the 1960s, put that confederate flag there at a time when it was used all across the South as a symbol of resistance to the civil rights movement.

With all the criticism of Texas Governor George W. Bush for not telling the state of South Carolina what to do, there was scarcely a word anywhere about Democrat Fritz Hollings. That's the media for you.

Democrats can claim credit -- if that's the word -- for all the government social programs that have played such a role in the disintegration of families. These programs have done little to reduce poverty. Blacks did more to reduce their own poverty than the government ever has.

Between 1940 and 1960, the poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent to 47 percent. Yet there was no major federal civil rights legislation or welfare state programs created during that period. The continuing rise of blacks out of poverty during the 1960s, when their poverty rate fell an additional 17 points, cannot be arbitrarily attributed to the Great Society programs, since this trend was already decades old before these programs were created.

As for the first decade of affirmative action -- the 1970s -- the poverty rate among blacks fell by only one percentage point then.

Education had much to do with the rise of blacks. As of 1940, black adults averaged just 5 years of schooling. By 1960 that was 8 years and by 1970 it was 10 years. Obviously, doubling your education within one generation tends to increase your income, regardless of which party is in power or what policies they follow.

In our own high-tech era, education is even more important. Nothing is more of a handicap to blacks today than inadequate education. There are many reasons for these inadequacies. How do the Democrats and Republicans compare, when it comes to the education of black youngsters?

Democrats are too completely dependent on the teachers' unions to be able to break the public school monopoly or to get rid of incompetent teachers or even to insist on the teaching of the basics, instead of the dumbed down education and amateur social engineering that the education establishment likes.

Republicans have a golden opportunity to offer blacks something that the Democrats cannot possibly offer -- the right of parents to choose where their own children go to school.

Whatever political support there is for vouchers has come almost exclusively from Republicans. Democrats are totally opposed -- and have to be, if they want to continue getting the millions of dollars contributed by the teachers' unions.

Another factor in the decline of American education in general and education in low-income minority communities in particular, is the difficulty of either punishing or expelling disruptive and violent students who destroy the education of the other students. Liberal judges have made it literally a federal case when schools crack down on disruptive and violent students. Who appoints liberal judges? Usually Democrats, though Republicans have slipped up and appointed a few as well.

One of the other huge handicaps that black students face is the attitude that trying to learn is "acting white." Self-destructive as this notion may be, it is a logical corollary of the social vision that says whitey is out to get you and it doesn't matter how much you know or how hard you try. Which party panders to this victimhood vision? Which party cuddles up with race hustlers like Al Sharpton, who promote this paranoid tribalism? The Democrats in general and Al Gore and Hillary Clinton in particular.

These are the facts. But how much weight do facts carry on election day?

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