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From worker-brc-news@lists.tao.ca Sun Aug 20 10:39:29 2000
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000 22:22:19 -0400
From: Manning Marable <mm247@columbia.edu>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] The Illusion of Inclusion
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George W. Bush: The Illusion of Inclusion

By Manning Marable <mm247@columbia.edu>
July 2000

George W. Bush wants black and brown Americans to know that he truly loves us, so very, very much.

In his acceptance speech at the Republican Party's presidential nominating convention, Bush delivered a message, which sounded at times more like Robert F. Kennedy than Ronald Reagan. Greatness is not defined by "wealth," but "is found when American character and American courage overcome American challenges," Bush declared. "We heard it in the civil rights movement, when brave men and women did not say, `We shall cope,' or `We shall see.' They said, `We shall overcome'."

Bush recognized that contemporary America was challenged with fundamental social problems. "When these problems aren't confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth and technology, education and ambition. On the other side of the wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair. And, my fellow Americans," Bush concluded, "We must tear down that wall."

Bush noted that "racial progress has been steady, if still too slow. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back."

The entire theatrical production called the Republican National Convention resonated with Bush's message of racial inclusion. For four days, the Republicans paraded before the television camera a near-endless series of black and brown performers: the Temptations, dancing black children, a gospel choir, rhythm and blues and salsa singers. General Colin Powell and Representative J.C. Watts, the only black republican in Congress, joined in the celebration. A black woman was even brought in to sing the national anthem. The message was clear: the Republican Party is a big multicultural tent, where everyone, regardless of race, gender and class is welcome.

Fortunately there were some in the media who denounced this nonsense for what it was. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert described the scene as "ethnic overkill to mask the party's lack of diversity." It was truly a "breathtaking exercise in hypocrisy for them to haul so many blacks before the camera for the sole purpose of singing, dancing, preaching and praising a party that has wanted no part of them."

Between the convention stage and the audience, there were in effect two parallel racial universes. The stage was multiracial and pluralistic; the delegates were over 90 percent white, mostly male, and extremely conservative. Of the Republican convention's 2,066 delegates and 2,066 alternates, only about 4 percent were African Americans. About twenty percent of the delegates reported personal net worth's exceeding one million dollars.

The basic Republican strategy under both Bushes - former President Bush as well as his eldest son - has been to attempt to fragment the near monolithic hold the Democratic Party has on the African-American electorate. When he was in the White House, former President Bush met dozens of times with black business and political leaders, and supported economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. He increased the budget of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and launched an "Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities," directing millions of dollars in federal funds to black higher education.

Some Republicans have astutely pushed this inclusive strategy throughout the 1990s. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, 58 black Republicans ran for the House in the last three elections. Watts, first elected to Congress in 1994, has now become the GOP's poster boy for diversity. In Connecticut, conservative black Republican Gary Franks was elected in 1990 and served three terms in office. This year, the Republicans successfully recruited a large number of African Americans to run for federal, state and local offices.

Even greater GOP efforts are being made among Latinos. Bob Dole received only about 30 percent of the Latino vote in 1996, but Bush received an unprecedented 49 percent in his Texas gubernatorial race in 1998. Bush has repeatedly addressed Hispanic audiences in Spanish, most recently before one thousand people at the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza. Bush tells Latino audiences that "I like to be seen in neighborhoods where sometimes Republicans aren't seen." And he frequently brings along and pushes forward his nephew George P. Bush, the oldest son of his brother Jeb and Jeb's wife Columba, noting that Columba's Mexican heritage makes his nephew part-Latino.

Bush asserts that he's a "different kind of Republican." So has the leopard changed its spots? Don't bet the farm on it.

For example, Governor Bush recently attempted to appoint one Charles W. Williams to chair a law enforcement commission in Texas. However, just a year before his appointment, Williams had testified in a discrimination suit that terms like "black bastard" and "porch monkey" weren't racially offensive. Black people, Williams explained, don't mind being called "nigger." When the media publicized Williams's racist statements, Bush was forced to ask for his resignation. Williams did resign as chair, but he still remains on the Texas commission!

Does a "different kind of Republican" speak at Bob Jones University in South Carolina, and refuse to condemn the flying of the Confederate battle flag over that state's capitol?

This March, Faye M. Anderson, the vice chairman of the Republican National Committee's New Majority Council, which was dedicated to recruiting blacks and Latinos into the party, bitterly submitted her resignation. Anderson blamed, among others, Governor Bush for "his failure to address the issues of concern" to African American groups such as the NAACP. She now observes that the Republican convention was nothing more than "a made-for-television illusion of inclusion." Even Colin Powell, the most admired black Republican leader, complains that "too often the Republican Party has said, `We know what's best for you,' as opposed to listening to the African-American community."

What all of this represents is a reconfigured politics of race in the era of globalization. The corporate and political ruling classes must incorporate growing sectors of the Latino and black middle class into their managerial ranks. The Republicans seek to create a class-conscious black and brown elite, which unambiguously champions a politics that is destructive to the interests of most minority, working class and poor people.

The vast majority of African-American and Latino voters are working people, and they will not be fooled by this elaborate masquerade of racial inclusion. Bush claims to be a "compassionate conservative," and that the Republican Party is now one big tent. But as columnist Gail Collins recently noted, "Bush's move to the center consists of his willingness to accept the votes of people who disagree with him. The tent is huge, but the ringmaster is only listening to the folks who entered from the right."

Dr. Manning Marable is Professor of History and Political Science, and the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Columbia University. "Along the Color Line" is distributed free of charge to over 350 publications throughout the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Marable's column is also available on the Internet at <http://www.manningmarable.net>.

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