NAACP Chairman Julian Bond opened the organization's 95th annual convention with harsh words for the Republicans and the President.
The Republican Party appeals to "the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," snarled Bond, who later said he feared President Bush was "going to repeal the 14th amendment" guaranteeing equal protection under the law.
The harsh words have become a tradition for Bond. Since becoming chairman of the NAACP in 1998, he has consistently used the organization's conventions to publicly proclaim his distaste for the Republicans. He's alternately referred to them as "neo-fascists," "the white-people's party" and "a crazed swarm of right-wing locusts" that have sought to "subvert, ignore, defy and destroy the laws that require an America which is bias-free." Bond opened the NAACP's 93rd annual national convention July 11 by comparing President Bush to a "snake oil" salesman.
Ironically, Bond also expressed disappointment that President Bush chose not to participate in this year's convention. As with most of Bond's remarks, this should be taken with a handful of salt. After all, why on earth would President Bush attend the conference of an organization that openly attacks him, consciously polarizes the race debate against Republicans and effectively acts as the black wing of the Democratic Party?
That's the question I put to Bond, who simply told me the NAACP is a non-partisan civil rights organization that just happens to agree with the Democrats on several key issues.
Of course, the reality is that the NAACP sold out its non-partisan civil rights mission. The change occurred on or about 1995. At the time, the NAACP was foundering amidst charges of sexual harassment and economic improprieties. "We were $4.5 million in debt. We had scandal in the organization. Our very existence was threatened," said Bond, who responded by engaging the services of a headhunting agency to replace the organization's president and CEO.
The firm whittled a pool of 2,000 applicants down to 50. The NAACP's governing board then narrowed the list of applicants to 12. "Kweisi Mfume was the last person we interviewed," says Bond. "When he walked in the room, you could just see people thinking, we've got our man."
With characteristic zeal, Mfume promised to reenergize the organization along overtly political lines. "The extreme ultraconservative policies of the far right are Draconian and punitive," he said, while mapping out a new agenda that would energize black voters for the Democratic Party.
Within five years, the debt was gone and the NAACP was widely regarded as the most powerful political pressure group in the country. They alone had the ability to galvanize fifty million black votes. Members of the press found it all dazzling. "Mfume not only has righted the ship, he also has set it on a new course," fawned USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham.
Unfortunately, Mfume had essentially partnered with the Democratic Party to revitalize the NAACP, and concluded it was in the NAACP's best interest to maintain that partnership. Officially, this was a partnership to uphold civil rights. Actually, it was to continue pumping federal money into the NAACP and keep Democratic Senators on good terms with their black constituents.
To justify becoming a partisan political institution, the NAACP set about alarming the black voting populace. The Republicans are dangerous, it said . a constant threat to our civil rights ... We must defend against them. Thusly did the politicization of the NAACP begin. The rhetoric coming out of the NAACP has since become increasingly shrill, even by political standards.
The 2000 presidential election between George W Bush and Al Gore brought the NAACP's not-so-subtle partisan politicking to its nadir. Abandoning all pretense of being a neutral entity, the NAACP joined with the Sierra Club to sponsor a series of radio ads lambasting three prominent Republican candidates. One ad charged Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham with being "more concerned with protecting polluters than ... protecting our families." Another denounced Virginia Gov. George Allen as beholden to Smithfield Foods, described as "one of Virginia's largest polluters and one of the largest contributors to George Allen's 1996 campaign." A third savaged GOP Rep. Anne Northup of Kentucky.
Then, on the eve of the 2000 election, the NAACP ran an ad in which the daughter of James Byrd Jr., murdered in a 1998 hate crime in Texas, said that Bush's refusal to sign hate-crime legislation while he was governor of Texas was like watching her father die "all over again." The ad featured a horrifying image of a truck with a chain dangling behind it. The not so subtle message: Bush is indifferent to race-based crime. For obvious reasons, the ad did not mention that Byrd's attackers were found guilty and sentenced to death.
That was the NAACP's campaign ad during the 2000 election. That is where they poured their money. They produced no ads about lifting black people up. The sum of their message was that the Republicans are bad. To this day, the majority of the civil rights work currently being done by the NAACP has to do with drumming up support of the Democratic party - in the form of voter drives, yes, but also in the form of opposition to school vouchers, faith-based charities and countless other programs that the black voting populace actually supports in public opinion polls.
When anyone within the NAACP suggests doing things differently, they are made to pay.
During the contentious 2000 election, the NAACP fired its Colorado chapter president because he went public with his support of school vouchers. A couple months later it suspended one of its Virginia representatives for having the audacity to endorse a Republican.
Were these NAACP representatives wrong to admit they supported the Republicans on certain issues? I suspect they were just plain na?, not realizing that the civil rights movement in the United States ended a decade ago. There is no room within the NAACP for intellectual diversity anymore, just loyal servitude to the Democratic Party
This is a crime. This is a shame. This is the sad state of the nation's oldest and most storied civil rights organization.
So explain to me again, Mr. Bond, why President Bush would consider appearing at the NAACP's annual convention.