GOP Faces Racial Dilemma

By Stanley Crouch
Sunday, March 7, 1999
The New York Daily News Online - News and Views - Opinion

A moral and racial drama is whipping up heat in the Republican Party. It's a battle for the honor and image of the GOP, as leaders keep trying on the one hand to broaden its appeal to minority voters but keep faltering in their efforts to wipe the party clean of racist taints.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Jim Nicholson, just got a lesson on this issue at the hands of Vikki Buckley.

Buckley, a black woman, is the newly elected secretary of state of Colorado. Delighted to have such symbol in the party ranks,
Nicholson asked permission last month to use her picture in a Republican National Committee ad campaign intended to attract
minorities to the GOP. He no doubt expected a swift okay.

But not so fast. "It is a shallow gesture," Buckley wrote Nicholson, "to be featured in such an ad when I was not afforded even the courtesy of a return phone call from you when I was in the midst of a heated campaign."

Black Republicans say this is typical treatment from the party. They're like orphans in the storm � invisible when they're running for public office but ready for a poster when they're victorious.

Political commentator Armstrong Williams is another black Republican who is hitting the party hard on this matter. The point on which he focuses is one that particularly concerns me and about which I have often written in this space: The failure of Republican leaders to speak out against Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's long connection to the pro-white Council of Conservative Citizens.

Williams is challenging conservative religious leaders to make it clear whether they consider racism as important a moral issue as
Bill Clinton's adultery. That puts the question perfectly.

Faye Anderson, president of the Douglass Policy Institute, is on the case from another angle. Often critical of her party's treatment of minorities, Anderson sees House Resolution 35 � which, if passed by the House, would condemn the CCC for bigotry � as an opportunity for Republicans to start seriously changing their image.

Gung-ho to the gills, she is trying to raise $100,000 to place ads urging passage of Resolution 35 in selected newspapers around the country.

"As a matter of real politics," says Anderson, "Republicans should support it, because the Democrats will surely use it against them. As a matter of principle, this resolution should enjoy . . .bi-partisan support. . . . A party already struggling with broadening its appeal and image can ill afford to be on the wrong side of this issue. That's why I want people to know that there are Republicans who are behind the resolution."

So far, 111 Democrats back the resolution � but only four Republicans: Reps. Michael Forbes and Amo Houghton, both of
New York; Fred Upton of Michigan, and John Porter of Illinois.

None is on the Judiciary Committee, but committee Chairman Henry Hyde told Ron Rosenbaum of the New York Observer that he will support the resolution, and we can be sure that Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, the least racist member in Congress, will vote for it.

Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, knows Republicans who are deeply concerned about the perception that the GOP is "an exclusive white Christian club." Noonan says, "We have to do something about that. One thing is sure: No one who traffics with or supports bigoted organizations should have leadership positions in either of our political parties. It is time to rid ourselves of the brutes."

A press conference on Resolution 35 will be held soon, bringing together Democrats and Republicans. The brutes should start to worry.

© 1999 Daily News, L.P.