Thursday, September 21, 2006

Washington Post: Black Groups to Woo Mfume to Steele

From the Washington Post, September 21, 2006:
The push was evident in a Baltimore radio advertisement targeting African American listeners that was sponsored by the Washington-based National Black Republican Association. The ad identifies Martin Luther King Jr. as a Republican and pins the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on Democrats.

One woman says: "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan."

"The Klan?" her friend replies. "White hoods and sheets?"

First woman: "Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks."

Second woman: "Seriously?"


"That's despicable. Downright despicable," said Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D), a former state Democratic chairman who is his party's nominee for Montgomery County executive.

"To run that kind of ad, to assume we are so stupid to fall for that kind of baloney, to use Dr. King's name in a cheap political ad like that, in my opinion, this will not be something African Americans will fall for," said Leggett, who is black.

There was a time in Maryland when the Republican Party was the voice of progressive politics and fairness on civil rights issues for Black Americans.

While some remember Spiro Agnew for his brutal repression of a civil rights demonstration (some say riot, some say rebellion) in Cambridge in the 1960s while Governor, it was Agnew who signed as County Executive a Baltimore County anti-discrimination ordinance banning the practice in public accommodations that ended, among other things, the all-white Buddy Deane Show on local TV that was Baltimore's equivalent of American Bandstand (and parodied in the John Waters movie and Broadway musical Hairspray.) Agnew signed other similar civil rights legislation as Governor and competed against a segregationist Democrat for that office.

Dr. Aris T. Allen served as a delegate and state senator from District 30 (Annapolis); a physician and civil rights leader, Dr. Allen was a Republican from before the Republican Party and Democratic Party "swapped" the voting blocs of white racist opposition to Black advancement for Black voters and vice versa. Unlike many Black officials, Dr. Allen stayed a Republican and was reelected many times. A statue and highway in Annapolis are dedicated to him.

In addition to his work promoting major road construction (both beltways, Rt. 50 near Annapolis), Republican Governor (and Mayor of Baltimore) Theodore McKeldin was a champion of civil rights and cooperation between Christian and Jews.

Perhaps it's my liberal bent, but I see a big difference between these men and the George Allen/Trent Lott/Tom DeLay/George W. Bush strand of Republican politics.

Polls have indicated very low support for the Republican Party or George W. Bush among Black Americans, one poll reportedly showing 2% approval for the GOP. Steele is not, in my view, an evil or predatory person; he is his own man. But his policies and support for his "homeboy" (direct quote) of George W. Bush enjoy little support among Marylanders. About 36% percent, depending on the day, of the country approves of George Bush. That percentage is significantly lower in relatively blue Maryland and is miniscule among Black Marylanders. I suspect that the pro-Steele ads will backfire.

Electing Steele to the Senate will not help any other current Black Republican officials in Maryland advance their careers because such don't exist. Steele has built no political base through shoe-rubber politics because he has never run for office in his own right, unlike Ehrlich who had climbed up with successive rings of supporters in different races. So if Steele gets elected, he will be supporting white Republican candidates running against black elected officials in the future. Why? Because the GOP has no Black farm team in Maryland, so it will be overwhelmingly white candidates whom Steele will back to undermine Black Democrats. Either that or Senator Steele will help no one, or will betray his party by backing Black Democrats. A good question to ask Steele is whether Black Democratic officials in Maryland can count on his support based on their race, or whether Steele will stay loyal to the GOP and oppose them. I don't think that there is even a good lying answer to this question.

As for Mfume, no way in hell will he back a Republican "homeboy" of George W. Bush.


Blogger The League: Reassembled said...

Agnew: Maryland's Civil Rights Politician?

In 1963, shortly after his election to the top post in Baltimore County, Agnew created a human relations commission designed to speed up desegregation in public life, including at a park. In October of that year, he received a “Helping Hand Award” from the Metropolitan Civic Association for his civil rights accomplishments. In August 1964, he submitted to the County Council “an administration civil rights bill covering several major areas of complaint – swimming pools, amusement parks and employment opportunities.”

As governor, Agnew advanced a decidedly pro-civil rights platform in Annapolis. His 1968 agenda’s top priority was the creation of expansive community mental health programs. He also called for creating “a State authority to provide financial and technical assistance for low and middle income housing projects” and expanding higher education services to low-income students. Agnew followed through on his promises in his requests for the 1969 capital budget. He started an employment program in impoverished areas of Baltimore in 1967, publicly toyed with issuing an Executive Order to end discrimination in state jobs and allowed state employees to take paid time off work to attend memorial services for Martin Luther King, Jr. He signed several civil rights bill, including an open housing law and legislation that legalized interracial marriage. Finally, Agnew used the governorship as a bully pulpit for civil rights, condemning racial slurs used by a circuit court judge and urging the state’s Congressional delegation to support federal legislation to outlaw housing discrimination.

But then there came the riots...

9/21/2006 10:42:00 AM  

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