It's too late, Mr. Vice President Gore, much too late.
Last week, Gore addressed the Congressional Black Caucus, a group still seething over the "stolen" election. Gore urged calm, "I believe very deeply that we all must respect and, wherever possible, help President-elect Bush, because from the moment he takes his solemn oath, a great responsibility will rest in his hands." Gore, the born-again uniter, who now urges the Caucus to hold hands and sing "God Bless America."
But, goes the refrain of the popular song, who let the dogs out?
Remember Gore's address to a black congregation before the election? "Deep within us," he said, "we each have the capacity for good and for evil. I am taught that good overcomes evil, if we choose that outcome. I feel it coming."
Earlier, Gore all but pronounced George W. Bush's prospective judicial nominees Dred Scott justices, stating, "When my opponent, Governor Bush, says he'll appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, I often think of the strictly constructed meaning that was applied when the Constitution was written -- how some people (slaves) were considered three-fifths of a human being."
For good measure, Gore also said, "And when the phrase 'strict constructionist' is used and when the names of Scalia and Thomas are used as benchmarks for who would be appointed, those are code words, and nobody should mistake this, for saying that the governor would appoint people who would overturn Roe v. Wade."
And remember during the post-election contest, when reporters asked Gore about the alleged "black disenfranchisement" in south Florida? "Well," said Gore, "I am very troubled by a lot of the stories that have been reported about a roadblock on the way to one precinct, questions raised about various activities there. I do not have any personal or firsthand knowledge of those events. But whenever there are problems of that kind alleged, they are deserving of attention." Evidence anyone?
So, after Gore's us-against-them, black-versus-white rhetoric, Gore seemed genuinely surprised that many blacks took this stuff seriously. For example, CBC member Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-N.J., attributed Bush's win to "dirty tricks." And Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston, said, "What we found in these elections were real insults to American democracy, but as well disenfranchisement of African-American voters."
Democratic Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings said, "There's outrage out there. This isn't something I'm making up. I go to the grocery store and the cleaners, and folks are totally outraged. There's serious frustration, serious disillusionment."
Lovely to hear a lecture on ethics from Hastings. His entry in "The Almanac of American Politics 1998" states that after his appointment to the federal bench "he was impeached by the House of Representatives by a vote of 426-3 in 1988 and convicted and removed from office by the Senate by a vote of 69-26. The impeachment arose from allegations that Hastings conspired with a friend to accept $150,000 for giving two convicted swindlers a break in sentencing. Hastings was acquitted in a criminal trial in 1983, but the friend was convicted. In the House, the case for impeachment was made by John Conyers, senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Removed from the bench, Hastings was unapologetic."
The always-outraged Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, and other black lawmakers filed a formal objection to the certification of Florida's electoral votes, but no senator, as parliamentary rules require, supported the move. Oh well.
Waters, too, comes to the table with great moral authority. She once called President George Bush, the elder, a "racist." She defended the Los Angeles riots. She once wrote a letter to Fidel Castro. Why? In 1977, a New Jersey jury convicted a former Black Panther, Joanne Chesimard, of first degree murder. Chesimard broke out of prison, and fled to Cuba. The House passed a unanimous resolution urging Castro to return Chesimard to the United States. But immediately after the resolution passed, Waters wrote Castro a letter, rescinding her vote, and claiming the Republicans "deceived" her: "Joanne Chesimard was the birth name of a political activist known to most members of the Congressional Black Caucus as Assata Shakur ... As evidence of their (Republican's) deceptive intent, the resolution did not mention Assata Shakur, but chose only to call her Joanne Chesimard." The letter said that Chesimard "was persecuted as a result of her political beliefs and affiliations," compared her to Martin Luther King Jr., and urged that Castro allow Chesimard to stay.
Gore, with perhaps a mind toward 2004, now seeks to calm down the very people he riled up. Sure, he received a record number of black votes. But at what price? At the presidential level, the Democratic Party has failed to win the "white vote" since 1964.
Who let the dogs out, Mr. Gore? To win votes by demonizing, one risks losing the support of the demonized.