Day By Day

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- The New Republican Party

James O'Toole has a nice article in the Post-Gazette outlining the new tack taken by the Republican Party with regard to black voters. He writes:

Mr. Swann's candidacy has helped give life -- if not yet proof -- to the narrative national GOP leaders are trying to present as a new Republican story, a tale of a party unwilling to cede any demographic groups to Democrats, one not content with monochromatic victories.

During last summer's Republican National Committee meeting in Pittsburgh, at a time when the GOP governor's race was still in flux, Ken Mehlman, the RNC chairman, was already holding out the Swann candidacy as an emblem of a changing party.

Tara Wall, the RNC's director of outreach communications, noted that Mr. Mehlman had made minority inclusion a priority of his tenure, meeting with scores of minority audiences across the country, and establishing new training programs for prospective minority candidates. And she pointed out that Mr. Swann, while perhaps the most prominent, is only one of a list of high-profile black candidates appearing on GOP ballots in statewide elections across the country.

In Maryland, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is the GOP's candidate for the U.S. Senate. Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is a candidate for governor. Jennette Bradley, the Ohio state treasurer, is seeking another term in her post. In Michigan, Keith Butler, a Detroit minister, is a candidate for U.S. Senate, and, in New York, Randy Daniels, a former secretary of state, is seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Gov. George Pataki.

"This is historic for Democrats or Republicans to have this many African-American candidates," Ms. Walls maintained. "This shows that Democrats can't take the black vote for granted. ... Many younger blacks are independents, and that gives us an opportunity."

Read it here.

While Bush's determination to widen the Republican Party's base nationally is certainly admirable and speaks well of him [he really is a visionary], the practical aspects of his quest are problematic. In Maryland and Pennsylvania it has resulted in the recruitment of people with limited experience in electoral politics [Steele and Swann] who are making mistakes in their early campaigns. And in Maryland, at least, there has been a lot of confrontation and infighting between representatives of the national Party and the State machine that has hurt the candidate.

This is understandable. Bush has unleashed change, much of it radical, throughout most of the institutions of society, and this has produced widespread anxiety and defensiveness within the voting public. In these disruptive times people want protection and stability, not progressive change. The State and local party organizations understand this and they also see that running as agents of change will be a losing proposition in the fall. This understanding leads them to resist urgings from the National Party leadership to take strong progressive positions.

How will this shake out? Will Bush and Mehlman succeed in reshaping the Republican Party? Will the voters reject the New Republicans?

Stay tuned....

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