Racial rope-a-dope

Posted: Dec 20, 2000 12:00 AM
Democrats have no constituency more loyal than black Americans. Much of that loyalty is delivered by black elected officials, civil-rights organizations and church leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. During the last election, these people did a yeoman's job of getting out the black vote for Democrats. In doing so, there was no strategy, even if disgusting, that wasn't employed toward that end. For example, the NAACP produced a political ad that portrayed the Jasper, Texas, lynching of James Byrd Jr. The ad's voice-over featured the voice of Byrd's daughter, saying: "My father was killed. He was beaten, chained, and dragged three miles to his death, all because he was black. So when Gov. George W. Bush refused to support hate-crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again." The ad all but accused George W. Bush of being a party to the lynching. It made no mention that two of Byrd's murderers have been sentenced to death and the third to life imprisonment. Al Gore did his part in this racial rope-a-dope, telling a black audience, "When my opponent, Gov. Bush, says he'll appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, I often think of the strictly constructionist meaning that was applied when the Constitution was written -- how some people were considered three-fifths of a human being." Gore knows that strict constructionism has nothing to do with counting slaves as three-fifths of a vote; he was simply exploiting the audience's ignorance and emotion. Gore didn't stop there. Pro-Gore leaflets distributed in New Jersey showed Bush's face superimposed on a Confederate flag. Early signs that the race card would be part and parcel of the Gore campaign came when his manager, Donna Brazile, explained to The Washington Post that she would never let the "white boys win." Then there was Jesse Jackson. He told black audiences that a Bush win would turn the civil-rights clock back to the days of Jim Crow. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its final election decision, making a Gore win all but hopeless, Jesse Jackson likened the Court's actions as equivalent to Dred Scott vs. Sanford. That's the 1857 Supreme Court decision that held a black slave could not become a citizen under the U.S. Constitution. By the way Brother Jesse, Dred Scott had nothing to do with voting. Jackson and Al Sharpton are now peddling the claim that blacks were "disenfranchised" in Florida. That would be a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, but has anyone taken these charges to the court where they belong? No -- Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other race hustlers have taken the charges to an uninformed media, where they have a chance for a warmer reception. On Inauguration Day, Jesse Jackson threatens to use "black disenfranchisement" as a rallying point for demonstrations. Some elements of Florida's voting problems bring out the dope in rope-a-dope. Gore might be right that he won Florida -- that's if we counted voter intention. In Florida's Duval County, many black voters voted for two presidential candidates after being instructed by Democratic election workers to punch every page. This led to the invalidation of some 27,000 votes in black precincts in Duval County alone. According to a story by Village Voice, a 1993 study puts the black adult functional illiteracy rate in Duval County at 47 percent. While such an illiteracy rate is tragic, in a sense it's poetic justice for civil-rights leaders and the Democratic Party: Their staunch support for public schools and the rotten education they produce just might have helped deliver a constituency that can't manage simple voting instructions.