Republican and Democratic party national conventions are always a mix of content and choreography. The relative mix of both tells us the shape that a party is in. Quality content with fitting form is the sign of a healthy party. A party in bad shape will have mostly form (choreographers are easy to hire) to deflect attention from an absence of ideas and content.
A few short weeks have passed since the conclusion of the Democratic convention. Can anyone recall what he or she heard from John Kerry and John Edwards? Does anyone have a clue what specifically they have in mind for our nation? I'm trying to avoid being partisan here, but I would like anyone to tell me one creative new idea he or she heard during the four days that the Dems met in Boston.
This week's Republican convention was a refreshing contrast. Whether or not you agree with George W. Bush's take on the world, the week in New York left little doubt what this man is about.
I walked away from a week in New York with a clear sense that Bush is about a strong and unapologetic U.S. stance around the world and a society at home emphasizing an increasing role of American citizen in controlling all aspects of their lives.
The choreography of the Republican convention was also interesting to note. As unapologetic as the Republicans came off regarding what they believe, they were equally unflinching in having this message delivered uniformly by tough white men - John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudolph Giuliani, Zell Miller.
Gone was the usual attempt to showcase the big tent. Where was the usual high-profile trotting out of the blacks, the Latinos and the women?
Recall that in 2000 Republicans were falling over themselves to show the nation that the Bush administration had given blacks lofty positions of unprecedented influence.
It was almost as if the Bush administration was saying this time around: "We've got important business to do here and not a lot of time to get it done. The focus needs to be on getting our message across as clearly and forcefully as possible. There isn't time here for the usual political affirmative action games."
As a black woman, am I offended by this?
Absolutely not. On the contrary, when I am looking for someone to give me tax advice, guidance on how to invest my money or ideas on how to manage my organization, I'm looking for content, not form. The marketplace is too unforgiving, and the rewards too attractive, to look for anyone other than those who will provide the best information and advice. Why should the criteria be any different in choosing those who will run my government?
Furthermore, I want blacks to be as in-your-face back to the Republican Party as Bush is to the nation and the world. Ownership and choice are far more critical for blacks than for rich white men.
I am thrilled that Bush is showing the imagination and leadership to put Social Security in play and open the door for personal accounts. But, back to the choreography and content trade-off, blacks need a minimum of the former and a maximum of the latter. I cannot think of one reason why any African-American earning $30,000 a year should be forced to continue putting one dime of hard-earned income into a retirement regime that does not involve ownership and market returns. Social Security provides neither and we want out, as soon as possible. We want returns on our hard-earned money, and we want to own and control what we work for.
No Child Left Behind and standards and testing sound great. But as long as our school system remains a government monopoly, where competition and alternatives cannot drive quality and excellence, there is only so much we can expect. And again, blacks have more at stake here than rich white folks who have the resources to buy alternatives. Even a miraculous revival of the black family in our nation's inner cities will not justify forcing the kids of these families to attend politically correct government schools.
Modest-income blacks need a market-driven health-care market. Health Savings Accounts and similar innovative ideas are crucial for poor people. Let's get employers out of the healt-care business for employees and open a real and dynamic market for personal health care that will force insurance companies to innovate and allow working men and woman of limited resources to buy health care that fits their needs and their pocketbooks.
I congratulate the president for bold and creative leadership and for emphasizing content over form. I want to encourage him to be even bolder.
It is not enough for government to allow African-Americans to put a toe into the pool of ownership and choice. We need government to get out of the way and let us dive in.