Friday, December 20, 2002
Seriously folks, while I am pleased Senator Lott has resigned, he has damaged the Republican Party, and the Republican Party needs to undo the damage. That means showing by deeds that the Dixiecrat mentality has no hold on the modern GOP. Here's my preliminary list of 5 things to do and 5 things not to do:
* Have Secretary Snow meet with Bono. That whole O'Neill trip to Africa was a good idea, not a bad one. Africa is going to have 2 billion people in 50 years, it's a major oil-producing region, it's a prime battleground in the war with the Islamo-fascists, and it's a region suffering from 14th-century level misery: the AIDS epidemic, genocidal warfare, massive deforestation, kleptocratic government, slavery, and on and on. And yet there are germs of hope - points of light, you might say - all over the continent. A pro-trade, pro-debt-relief, pro-democracy, anti-slavery, anti-Islamofascist policy on Africa fits right into Bush's broader agenda. All it takes is some attention, and willingness to stand up to interests - like agriculture and textile industries - that stand in the way. Heck, don't send Snow - send Bill Frist. He already knows the territory well.
* Develop an agenda for prison reform. Back in 2000, a nasty attack ad accused Bush of effectively killing James Byrd all over again by refusing to sign a hate-crime law in Texas. The charge was loopy, but in a more direct sense Bush - and his Democrat predecessor - contributed to Byrd's death, because his murderers were the products of the Texas penal system. There's a real risk that when the bad guys locked up in the '90s get out, we'll have a massive new crime wave, and there's very little the government is doing to reduce recidivism from our prisons. Maybe there's not much we can do. But why not invite Chuck Colson to the White House for a summit on the topic to see if he has any ideas.
* Promote a serious school-reform agenda. Bush got rolled by Ted Kennedy in 2001. Don't let the fight end there. Ending bi-lingual education, promoting charter schools, promoting school choice, raising standards for teachers and students - there's a huge reform agenda that has basically been abandoned, and while we all suffer for it black Americans suffer the most. Get this back on the front burner of domestic policy. If domestic policy has a front burner anymore.
* Continue the important outreach to black ministers. Look, no matter what he does, Bush isn't going to get a huge black vote in 2004. That's not the point. It's not good for America to have the parties deeply divided on racial lines. It's going to take a long time to build up sufficient trust for black voters to consider voting Republican in any significant numbers. Changing principles is not what's needed. But outreach and communication is. It's a generational effort. And it should be undertaken not because it'll bring a big electoral advantage - it won't, certainly not short-term - but because it's the right thing to do for the country. Hey: remember all those news stories about Bush potentially joining a black Methodist church in Washington? Wouldn't now be a good time to actually do it? Not saying he couldn't still church-hop, but being a dues-paying member at a black church, and praying there semi-regularly, would send a pretty clear signal, wouldn't it?
* Win the war. In the end, there's a reason this Administration has kind of abandoned domestic policy. Nothing else matters if we lose the war. So win it.
* Give in on affirmative action. Americans have been and remain strongly opposed to race-based affirmative action. They are far more supportive of class-based affirmative action that is race-blind. This should not be a difficult change in law to pull off or to defend in front of black audiences. If the ultimate result of the Lott farce is that Republicans abandon the principle that race should be a continually declining and ultimately null factor in law, that would be a real tragedy.
* Treat the NAACP as a moral arbiter. No one needs to apologize to them and no one needs to get their blessing. One of the many reasons Lott had to be removed was that with him around the GOP would have had no standing to articulate an alternative position to the NAACP on how to achieve racial harmony. They would have been racial hostages. Well, he's gone. The GOP passed the test; maybe not with an A+, but they passed. So don't get defensive.
* Make Colin Powell untouchable. If he's running an independent foreign policy, as it sometimes appears, he should be canned, and I don't care how popular he is. If he's got the full support of the President and they're playing some kind of good cop/bad cop routine, as it also sometimes appears, he should be retained, and I don't care how upset conservatives get. But his race should have nothing to do with it. He's not a token. He's not in his current position because he's black. He's in his current position because he is a powerful representative of America abroad, one who inspires confidence and in whom foreign leaders happily place their trust. That's exactly what you want in a Secretary of State, so long as he still has the confidence of the President.
* Go on a witch-hunt for closet segregationists - in either party. Nothing has been less edifying than hearing Republicans complain about Clinton's praise of the late Senator Fulbright or Senator Byrd's notorious Klan history and recent references to "white niggers." And even less will be gained by going after these kinds of figures now. Same goes for the GOP ranks. Lott was the head of the Republican leadership and he regretted the demise of segregation publicly, and failed to understand what was so terrible about what he said after he said it. There is no basis to tar by association everyone who voted with Lott, who was friends with Lott, who accepted Lott's apology, who was sponsored by Lott for one job or another - you get the idea. The point has been made. Hopefully everyone in the GOP - and the Democrats - got the point. If they didn't, and a comparably egregious circumstance arises in the future, that will be the time for an outcry. Not now.
* Run Al Sharpton-related ads in 2004. Let him destroy the Democratic Party on his own. You can't possibly help by making him an issue. Just let him do his thing and sit back and watch. And let the bloggers make the mock.