Black Republicans at the GOP Convention

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Whatever it is, it's approximately the same decibel level as a gathering of black Republicans. Although African-Americans have been and still are growing as a percentage of the national population, there are actually FEWER black delegates at this Republican Convention than the one four years ago. Of the 1990 Republican delegates total, 54 -- COUNT 'EM -- 54 are black. How small is "the world's smallest fraternity"? So small that networks were desperate to find black faces in the crowd during Gen. Colin Powell's speech. So small that, in fact, ABC lingered on the lovely face of Tamela Edwards, a REPORTER for Time magazine. Edwards, who has been following Bob Dole in his exhaustive run for the Presidency, had a good laugh about the whole thing. "My mother saw me and said I was wearing pearls and looked very classy." Yesterday afternoon I went to a black Republican soiree at which the General made a brief appearance. While there, I spoke with a few of the faithful, including Johnnie Scott Rice, Executive Director, African-Americans for Dole. I asked her what black Republicans should do to attract new voters. A bit snidely, she dismissed the idea of recruiting new black Republicans per se -- she and other black Repubs would just state what they believed in and those who agreed would join. She shoved a bit of blue card stock into my hand, "This is what we believe in." Titled "African Americans Should Vote Republican Because," the leaflet begins, "1. African Americans want the same things white Americans want -- good jobs safe neighborhoods, quality education for their children, self sufficiency and respect. Republicans have worked hard to provide equal opportunities which will improve the quality of life for all Americans." Yes on the first part, highly disputable on the second. I had a more satisfying conversation with Jerry M. Hunter, a lawyer and former Bush Administration political appointee who came to network within the "small fraternity." I offered that having more black Republicans would be a good thing -- groups which are swing voters have more leverage within the political system. But how to recruit them? Hunter agreed with me that there's no question some Republican candidates use race-based rhetoric to get white votes, but some Democrats have as well. The main issue in his mind is for African-Americans to truly examine the records and rhetoric of each candidate, regardless of their political party, and pick the politician who is best for them and their community. That's good advice all around.

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