The GOP Is Continuing To Court The Black Vote — By Betsy Newmark

Howard Dean just doesn’t know the value of subtlety. Now, he’s criticizing Ken Mehlman for talking to the Connecticut NAACP.

“I’m shocked that he would have the nerve to show his face in front of any African American organization after the way they treated those people in New Orleans,” Dean said.

Let’s not even get back into the arguments about whose fault the delays after Katrina were. I personally think that people are beginning to get a fuller picture of who did and didn’t do what to help alleviate the effects of the hurricane. Only those most vicious race-baiters truly believe that there was some deliberate effort to harm people in New Orleans because of their race. But those are the people that Dean is playing to with his remarks. His attitude seems to be that the Democrats own the black vote and Mehlman is showing some nerve to try and speak to them. I suspect that there are some blacks who realize that it is to their benefit to listen to both sides and not be a total subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Reaction was mixed.

Ursalene Taylor, a Democrat from Hamden, said, “I thought his points were excellent.”

Her husband, Walter Taylor, an unaffiliated voter, said he appreciated the Republican emphasis on jobs and economic development, as opposed to social programs that he sees as the bedrock of the Democratic Party.

“I work hard for what I get. I believe that’s the way it should be,” he said.

Joyce K. Jones, a Republican politician from the Waterbury suburb of Prospect, said Mehlman’s invitation for black people to explore the Republican record was “wonderful.”

“I am always going around trying to encourage my African American friends just to try it,” she said. “It’s so very important we always to try to have many points of view.”

But a man seated at a nearby table listened to Mehlman’s speech without applauding. Asked his reaction, he said, “No comment.”

Carolyn Nah, the president of the Bridgeport chapter of the NAACP, rolled her eyes at what she called the competing appeals of both parties to black voters: “The Republican doesn’t pay us any attention, and the Democrat takes us for granted.”

“We’ve known that for years. Somebody got to come here and tell you that?” she asked. “It’s b.s. It’s all b.s.”

Mehlman has been making strong efforts to chip away at this voting bloc that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats since the New Deal. Republicans such as Bush have been criticized for avoiding the NAACP and now Mehlman is being criticized for going and speaking to them. Does the Connecticut NAACP, which invited Mehlman to speak, enjoy having a white Democratic politician express an opinion on who should and should not talk to them?

This content was used with the permission of Betsy’s Page

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