The Race Card

Anybody who knows Clark County Commissioner Lynette Boggs McDonald knows she's not shy about sharing her feelings. She once got so worked up about a political slight that she went on a religious tirade that ended with sending her enemies back into the fire in the name of Jesus Christ.

Sitting in the audience furiously scribbling notes, I remember thinking only "Jesus Christ." While it was good political theater, the topic of religion had been introduced by Boggs McDonald, and nobody else.

And now, one appointment to the Clark County Commission later, she's done it again, bringing up race in a political contest where it wasn't even an issue. (Boggs McDonald is black; her Democratic opponent, Assemblyman David Goldwater, is Jewish.)

"From my perspective, there is one last plantation in America, and it's called the Democratic Party," she told the Las Vegas Sun.

She didn't back off when asked for a comment by the Review-Journal: "One party believes they're [black voters] owned, and that's the Democratic Party. My party doesn't do enough, but at least it doesn't presume that African American voters are along for the ride. I have always earned my votes from African Americans."

Indeed, Boggs McDonald delighted in telling would-be voters that if she was elected to Congress in 2002 – when she ran against Rep. Shelley Berkley – she would have been the first black, female Republican member of the House in history. (The party label was necessary, since the Democrats elected their first black woman decades ago.)

It's not like Boggs McDonald hates the Democratic plantation; after all, she used to be on it. She ran for the state Assembly as a Democrat in 1998, but lost to Republican Merle Berman by just 306 votes. She changed parties to become a Republican in 1999, and got appointed to the Las Vegas City Council. (The party switch still irks some grudge-holding Democrats who worked on her Assembly race.)

She won election to a term on the council in her own right, and was appointed to the County Commission this year when ex-Commissioner Mark James stepped down in his first term.

Boggs McDonald is partly right and partly wrong in her allegation that the Democrats take minorities for granted. The party has done some mighty things for minorities, not the least of which are the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. (Where was the GOP on those?) And the party's agenda of social programs, justice reform and economic development speaks more to minority communities than does Republican rhetoric.

And we shouldn't forget what one black elected official told me long ago: Minorities can go farther in the Republican Party, because there are fewer of them, and the GOP wants at least to appear diverse. Instead of presuming they're along for the ride, as Boggs McDonald accused Democrats of doing, Republicans let them ride in the front seat.

Just not the driver's seat.

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