Will Blacks Fall for the “Old Line” — the Race Card — Once Again? by Kevin Martin

A New Visions Commentary paper published November 2001 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail , Web http://www.nationalcenter.org.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

The nickname of my home state of Maryland is "The Old Line State." While it has nothing to do with the nickname, I like to joke to my friends that Maryland’s black voters are familiar with another old line – one of fear and ignorance used by liberals for political gain.

Who can forget when the Democrats ran radio spots around the country in 1998 that claimed if you didn’t vote Democrat, you’d let another brother get shot or lynched. You’d think the next time I hear gunshots I could scream, "I’m a Democrat!" and be safe. When the Klan rallies, I can put the fear of God in them by saying, "I’m a Democrat!" Yeah, right.

I know screaming a party affiliation won’t protect me. Likewise, following Jesse’s advice to side with liberal politicians won’t either. That’s what some of us still need to learn.

In Maryland, incumbent Governor Parris Glendening played the race card in 1998. When poll numbers were too close to call, and black turnout was the likely key, he conducted a smear campaign. Those Jesse ads were just part of it. Increased voter turnout in both heavily-black Prince George’s County and City of Baltimore allowed him to overcome the largely rural voter bloc won by Republican Ellen Saurbrey. Glendening disgracefully proved how well the race card can be employed.

It seems the race card is being moved back to the top of the deck for Maryland’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Right now, liberal Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, is hoping her name alone will endear her to our community. Baltimore talk show host Larry Young of the black radio station WOLB told me that a frequent caller to his show, Salima, related her troubling meeting with Townsend. When she asked Townsend if she would fight for black votes, Salima reports that Townsend said "that blacks know what her father and uncle did for them and that we have no other place to go."

Townsend’s likely opponent, Congressman Robert Ehrlich, recently accepted an invitation to appear on the urban affairs-oriented "Larry Young and Company Morning Show" to reach out to black voters and answer questions from Young, a former state senator. Townsend has yet to respond to her invitation.

Townsend’s handlers probably figure she lacks the gravitas to plead her own case to Maryland’s black voters. Instead, she will appear in staged photos with black children while calling for better schools. She’ll hold the hand of a black mother clutching a picture of the child she recently lost to street violence. She’ll probably also find time to attend our church services and pose with our preachers and civic leaders. Once in office, however, I expect she will drop us like a hot rock. But she will remain beholden to the extremist political left. The real question we need answered before election day is whether poor black communities have any importance to her except for their votes?

One of the biggest challenges facing anyone seeking to challenge the status quo by appealing to black voters is overcoming the liberal wall currently segregating most black voters. A prime example of this possessive mentality was seen recently in the remarks of Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. The chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, Michael Steele, is a black man. Miller, who is white, called Steele an "Uncle Tom" after Steele submitted a redistricting plan that would empower black voters through increased representation. Steele’s plan, which received support from local Democrats, essentially levels the political playing field and increases political opportunity in Maryland for blacks.

If seeking further empowerment for our community makes Michael Steele an Uncle Tom, then I say he should wear the slur as a badge of honor! Mike Miller must be held accountable for his comment by Maryland’s Black Caucus, and their lack of action so far shows they will allow the liberals to continue to use us while denying us political power.

Black Marylanders need to reshuffle the deck as our brothers and sisters did in New York City’s mayoral contest when they found the race card works both ways. They sent a clear message to New York’s liberal elite that the days of taking black voters for granted are over when they changed the outcome of the race. I only hope black Marylanders will figure out that, much like in New York, they hold the winning hand.

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