February 11, 2002
In our February first editorial we asked the question, "Can Republicans woo African Americans?" Henry McMaster had us asking the question as he announced the formation of a special "Outreach Committee" that would explore what it would take to bring more black South Carolinians into the Republican Party.
Our conclusion was that it would take more than an "Outreach Committee" to reach the goal of changing the voting habits of this portion of our population. Only an "outreach commitment" on the part of rank-and-file Republicans and their leaders could bring about such change. Even then it would take time along with lots of work.
It appears that some in the African American community agree. Notice the quotation from today's The State. The Rev. Joe Darby, senior pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, is quoted as saying, "I'm waiting for the day when I look out on Sunday morning and see Henry McMaster and (House Speaker) David Wilkins looking up at me in the church service. Or (House Ways and Means Committee chairman) Bobby Harrell coming to an NAACP meeting to make his case." The article went on to point out that only then would he take the Committee seriously.
The timing is suspect. This close to an election brings to mind an eleventh hour attempt to up the black vote by a percentage point or so. It is going to take a sustained campaign well beyond the November elections orchestrated by more than just the Committee members. That leads us to the question, "Why not?"
McMaster, Wilkins and Harrell, why don't you guys take Rev. Darby up on his invitation? Could it be that liberal black leaders use the unwillingness to place yourselves in these situations to inaccurately portray you as uninterested in the black population of South Carolina?
Could we learn something from Bill Clinton in this regard?
What did Bill Clinton ever do for African Americans? Hmmmmmm, I can't think of anything. However, he sure showed that he was willing to pursue their vote! There may not have been much substance, but there sure was a lot of good form. Now, you are saying that you have the substance. It is time to serve it up aiming for some style points. Sometimes it takes pressing the flesh and spending time to show that you really care.
Isn't that the crux of the matter? African Americans may agree with Republicans on a host of issues but they simply don't believe that conservatives care for them and their needs or issues. Does it always take a program or legislation to show you are interested? No. Sometimes it takes getting out of the chambers and out on the streets. Sometimes it takes getting out from behind the camera and sitting in the pews. Sometimes it takes putting political calculations aside and meeting people simply because they are the ones you represent.
Rev. Darby gives you a concrete way to bring him to a point of decision. If you give him no excuse, he is going to have to chide you for your positions and not your attitude. What is the worse that could happen? We could be right back where we areóbut you will have a better understanding of the black community. What is the best scenario? The "Outreach Committee" could actually see some results.
So the question hangs, "Why not?"
Read the article in The State:
"Black vote tough quest for GOP"