Thomas Sowell

If Senator John McCain needed to prove that he is a real Republican, he did it when he continued an old Republican tradition of utterly inept attempts to appeal to black voters.

Senator McCain was booed at a recent memorial on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In typical Republican fashion, he tried to apologize but the audience was not buying it and let him know it.

Why would Senator McCain choose a venue where his rejection was virtually guaranteed? Not only did he not get his message out, the message that came out through the media is that this black audience rejected him, which is readily portrayed as if blacks in general rejected him.

The Republican strategy for making inroads into the black vote has failed consistently for more than a quarter of a century. Yet it never seems to occur to them to change their approach.

The first thing that they do that is foredoomed to failure is trying to reach blacks through the civil rights organizations and other institutions of the black establishment. The second proven loser is trying to appeal to blacks by offering the same kinds of things that Democrats offer-- token honors, politically correct rhetoric and welfare state benefits.

Blacks who want those things know that they can already get them from the Democrats. Why should they listen to Republicans who act like imitation Democrats?'

These are not the blacks whose votes Republicans have any realistic hope of getting. Nor do the Republicans need the votes of all blacks. If just 20 percent of blacks begin voting Republican, the Democrats are lost.

The question then is how to have a shot at getting the votes of those blacks who are not in thrall to the current black "leaders" and who on many issues may be conservative.

First of all, you don't get their votes by approaching them from the left, when that is neither their orientation nor yours. Issuing stamps honoring Paul Robeson and Kwanzaa are not the way to reach those blacks whom Republicans have any realistic chance of reaching.

Trying to reach blacks through civil rights organizations that are totally hostile to your message is like a quarterback trying to throw a pass to a receiver surrounded by opposing defenders. That just leads to a lot of interceptions and touchdowns for the other team.

That is essentially what has been happening to the Republicans, as far as the black vote is concerned, for decades on end. Someone once said that a method which fails repeatedly may possibly be wrong.

The truth is something that can attract people's attention, if only for its novelty in politics. There is no need for Republicans to try to pose as saviors of blacks. Democrats do that and they have more experience doing it.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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