There they go again: The Democrats are race-baiting -- attempting to suggest that the Republicans purposely excluded or miscounted the votes of African-Americans in the 2004 election.
And why not? It worked so well last time around. The myth that African American votes went uncounted in Florida has achieved the status of conventional wisdom -- never mind the little detail that it is completely false. And that myth has kept African American voters bitter and angry, which is precisely the way Democrats want them to feel. The more alienated black voters become, the more certain Democrats are that an essential constituency of the Democratic Party will remain loyal. The Democrats cast themselves as champions of the disenfranchised.
Now a group of Democrats led by Sen. Barbara Boxer has formally objected to counting Ohio's 20 Electoral College votes because of purported "voting irregularities." Michigan Democrat John Conyers asserted that in minority neighborhoods there was a particular shortage of voting machines, leading to long lines. Rep. Barbara Lee of California invoked centuries of oppression. Other members of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke of mysterious men who dressed as police officers and interfered with black voters. But just as in 2000, they have been unable to produce a single person who was denied his right to vote.
Republicans really ought to howl about this. By remaining silent in the face of these absurd yet damaging accusations, they give some credence to it.
In my new book "Do-Gooders," I devote a chapter to race-baiting by liberals and note the irony that those who claim to be most solicitous of African Americans are actually cynically manipulating their fears and memories for their own narrow political reasons.
Remember the spate of black church burnings that seemed to be sweeping the Southern states? Democrats and liberals rushed to conclude that the KKK was riding again in the American South, and demagogues like Jesse Jackson were not above suggesting that conservatives had contributed to a climate that made church burnings possible. It turned out that there was no rash of black church burnings, but by the time those facts were verified, the lie had taken flight.
In the 2000 campaign, the NAACP ran ads suggesting that then-Gov. George W. Bush had condoned the gruesome dragging death of James Byrd by a couple of white skinheads in Texas. Though Bush signed the death warrants of the perpetrators, the NAACP, with the active collusion of then-Vice President Al Gore, spread the vile lie that Bush was somehow less than forceful in prosecuting those racist killers. It was a despicable charge, and it arguably did real damage to Bush in the 2000 race. Whereas he had earned 25 percent of the black vote in Texas in 1998, he received just 5 percent of black Texans' votes in the 2000 presidential contest.
During the 1998 election cycle, Democrats ran ads on black radio stations that most unsubtly accused the Republican Party of malice toward blacks. "When you don't vote, you let another church explode. ... When you don't vote, you let Republicans continue to cut school lunches and Head Start. ... When you don't vote, you let another assault wound a brother or sister."
The Democrats know that they cannot win elections if they fail to get 85 percent to 90 percent of the black vote. This is because they consistently receive only a minority of the white vote. Keeping African Americans angry is a matter of political life and death to them.
But Republicans should not permit the smear to go unanswered. Democrats are willing to lie and sow discord in order to win elections. Republicans should be willing to tell the truth.
Note: In last week's column, I relied on what turned out to be a mistranslation of an article in L'Osservatore Romano. The editorial apparently chastised Sri Lanka for rejecting Israeli help, not the other way around, as the Catholic World Review originally reported.