Has the Republican Party suddenly caught a case of jungle fever? Thisyear Republicans will most likely run three African-Americans instatewide elections: Kenneth Blackwell (for governor in Ohio), formerNFL star Lynn Swann (for governor in Pennsylvania) and MarylandLieutenant Governor Michael Steele, who is seen as the frontrunner forthe Republican Senate nomination there.
In a country where there is currently only one African-American Senator (Illinois' Barack Obama) and onlyone African-American has ever been elected governor of a state (Virginia's Doug Wilder) thisseems like a risk for the GOP and its standard-bearers.
Perhaps President Bush was being sincere in one of his more candid speeches to the NAACP this summer, when he spoke about hisparty's need to embrace black voters and black issues. But some punditshave suggested that the recruiting of these candidates is a desperateattempt to siphon off black votes from Democratic candidates in swing states.
While race is supposed to be an integral part of these candidates'appeal, their campaign policies are antagonistic to significant portionsof the black community who tend to be fiscally and socially liberal. Swann, a total novicewhen it comes to politics, has made tort reform, the reduction of foodstamps and welfare reform cornerstones of his campaign. Steele,who won a major speaking spot at the last Republican convention,recently refused to rebuke Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich's appearanceat an all-white golf club. "I don't know much about the club, themembership," said Steele, "nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don'tplay golf."
The most notorious of the three is Blackwell, who allegedly carries a Bible withhim to all his campaign stops. Blackwell opposes abortion even when themother's life is in jeopardy and supports a Constitutional amendment tolimit government. However, the most egregious of his offenses was hisrole in disenfranchising thousands of voters, many ofthem black, during the 2004 election as Chief Elections Official inOhio, while simultaneously serving as co-chair of the Committee tore-elect George W. Bush.
African-American progressives have reason to celebrate the rise of minorities inmodern politics, but they should be skeptical about supporting thesethree stooges.