Friday, September 28, 2007

Hiding Behind the Color Green

Hiding Behind the Color Green
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
September 28, 2007

As a Republican city council candidate in Charm City during the last decade where GOP voter registrants numbered less than 10 percent, I made it my business to actively participate in debates.

There I sat, in Democrat-laden, hostile territory participating in events in church basements and school cafeterias – never once having any delusions of grandeur thinking I had the remotest shot at pulling off the miracle upset victory. The odds were even longer as a Jewish Republican where I joked that we held meetings in local telephone booths. After all, I was not the fabled 1969 New York Mets, lest I remind Baltimoreans of that fateful World Series.

But that’s politics and that’s the nature of the game – whether a city council candidate or a presidential candidate.

That said, with roughly 80 percent of the Jewish vote and about 90 percent of the black vote traditionally garnered by Democratic candidates, you don’t raise the white flag and hide behind “scheduling conflicts.” That weak and moronic excuse was given by GOP presidential candidates former mayor Rudy Giuliani (NY), Sen. John McCain (AZ), former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN) for not appearing at the September 27 candidate forum at Morgan State University, one of the nation’s historic black colleges.

I knew about this event more than a month ago. No doubt the campaign schedulers for the aforementioned candidates knew and could have made the necessary arrangements to be in Baltimore. And if the schedulers were unaware, they should be replaced immediately. Each of the four AWOL candidates participated in fund-raising junkets. As anyone who breathes knows, dollars translate into candidate viability, but skipping the Morgan State debate could prove more costly.

Looking at the majority black audience, and from the applause, a fair number of whom were Republicans, they seemed rightfully insulted that the four frontrunners shunned them. Their absence was much akin to the ill-fated remarks made by James Baker to President George Herbert Walker Bush advising him not to worry about the Jewish vote because, “they don’t vote for us anyway.” (That’s the sanitized version.)

The hundreds of voters in attendance at Morgan State took the time to give the Republican presidential candidates a chance to earn their votes. They attended with open minds and deserved the apology offered by Sen. Sam Brownback (KS). “I apologize for the candidates who aren’t here. I think it’s a disgrace that they aren’t here.”

There are myriad reasons for those in attendance and black voters nationwide to consider supporting and voting for a GOP presidential candidate in 2008. With little exception the Republicans have been outspoken, certainly more outspoken than the Democrats, on the issue of illegal immigration – thanks to Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO). Tancredo pointed out that illegal immigrants drive down wages which has a greater effect on the employment figures for blacks, who have a higher percentage of unemployment when compared to whites.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee discussed the importance of working to improve housing opportunities in black and other minority communities. Black home ownership is below 50 percent while white home ownership is above 70 percent.

This is not a new Republican goal. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp called for enterprise zones and campaigned on the issue of increased home ownership and personal responsibility as GOP vice presidential candidate in 1996. Kemp went on record  advising candidates, “if we’re going to be competitive with people of color, we’ve got to ask them for their vote.” (Kudos also to Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA) and Rep. Ron Paul (TX) for their participation as well.)

The Democrats were just as guilty when all of their presidential candidates balked at participating in a FOX News Channel debate. After all, if they can’t stand up to Chris Wallace, how will they stand up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Hiding behind the fund-raising fa├žade is disingenuous. That the debate should be held near the end of the fiscal quarter is virtually meaningless to the average voter who wants the candidates to show their faces and be heard. Didn’t the five participating candidates face the same financial “deadline?”

It is embarrassing for the GOP to duck and dodge a minority audience as well as the black and Latino members of the media on hand to discern where the candidates stand on key issues. Where 44 percent of the candidates stood on September 27 was off campus hiding behind another color – green.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA. He ran for the Baltimore City Council in 1999 and the Alexandria, VA school board in 2006.

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