With the $9 million ad campaign being waged by its National Voter Fund, the NAACP leaves no doubt that it operates as a de facto arm of the Democratic Party.
Consider a new NAACP ad that features Renee Mullins, daughter of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was tortured and murdered by three white racists. Mullins says in the ad: "On June 7, 1998, my father was dragged three miles behind a truck until his life was taken from him because he was black. I went to Gov. George W. Bush and begged him to help pass a hate crimes bill in Texas. He just told me no."
The ad does not expressly tell people to vote for Al Gore. But in running radio and TV spots that trash his GOP rival in states where black turnout is crucial in the race for the White House, the NAACP's aim is clear. The fund's Andrea Pringle denies that the NAACP is anything but "totally nonpartisan."
But if the NAACP is nonpartisan and not working for one candidate, why is this national organization advertising in The New York Times for the passage of a Texas hate crime bill? Why run this ad on TV and radio stations across the country when the Texas Legislature won't convene for two and a half months? Why push for passage of a bill that died before it made it to the governor's desk in 1999?
And why mislead black voters? As Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a think tank that opposes affirmative-action racial preferences, noted, "It sounds a little misleading because the hate crime statute in Texas already covers racial hate crimes, which is what the James Byrd killing was." You'd never know that from The New York Times ad, which tells voters to tell Dubya "we need hate crimes legislation."
Certain things are a given. African Americans tend to vote Democratic by huge margins. So it should be expected that an NAACP voter drive would increase Demo turnout. That's fair enough.
But when the organization becomes part of the Gore propaganda machine, it loses something. It loses credibility.
NAACP leaders have trashed Bush for not speaking out against South Carolina allowing the Confederate flag to wave above its state capitol. They were right to do so and glorious in their drive to pressure South Carolina into ending this nasty practice.
Those same leaders, alas, have failed to use the same national platform to push to evict a statue of Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest from Tennessee's Capitol. It seems that if they can't hurt a Republican, they aren't particularly energized about challenging racist symbols.
The NAACP risks alienating its own community. "My generation of young professional blacks wants to evaluate our options," NAACP Oakland Chapter President Shannon Reeves explained yesterday. Reeves soon will leave his post, having taken a drubbing for endorsing Bush. He marvels at the NAACP old guard, which scolded him for endorsing a Republican as if endorsing Bush was too partisan, even though its president, Kweisi Mfume, was a key speaker at the Democratic National Convention. When Gore addressed the NAACP convention in July, group leaders practically crowned him.
The Washington Post reports that much of the $7 million raised for the National Voter Fund came from one anonymous donor. That is, it is the sort of soft money back-door maneuver that Democrats are supposed to oppose -- unless it goes into their pockets. That's because Democrats are so good, that they can spend millions in special-interest money for ads that deliberately mislead black voters without being honest as to their real intentions.