Man Without Qualities

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Opportunity Knocks

The Trent Lott mess has given rise to many calls that the GOP must "do more" about race, many of those calls issuing from highly disingenuous quarters such as Nancy Pelosi.

Representative Pelosi presides in a party that has Donna Brazille commissioned to promote local African-American candidates to defeat Al Sharpton's capture of the African-American vote in the next Presidential round. So one might be tempted to counsel Ms. Pelosi and her ilk to tend her own fields and be done with it.

But that would be passing up a real opportunity, because what Ms. Pelosi is saying is correct and the fact that she is saying it creates a real opportunity for the Republicans to do something constructive.

One of the bitterest consequences of the structure of the current Democratic coalition is that many urgent and worthy African-American interests are perversely suppressed within the party in favor of the other, competing interests. Perhaps the worst example is the submersion of the educational opportunities of African-American and other minority children to the interests of the teachers unions. Many younger African-American leaders are acutely aware of this disgrace.

Now that the GOP again controls both houses of Congress, a program of school vouchers for children from disadvantaged schools may be a real possibility. By proposing such a targeted, well-funded voucher program, the President and Congressional Republicans would send a message to African-Americans that Republicans care about them in the ways that count. The best result would be that if such a program became law, African-American children would benefit enormously.

But proposing such a program would also split the Democratic coalition in several ways, even if it does not pass Congress. Young, visionary African-American leaders would be further encouraged to break from the manipulative, traitorous Sharptons and Brazilles who have inherited the old civil rights estate. And minority parents would be encouraged to understand that the Democrat/Union monolith is a main obstacle to their childrens' progress, education and happiness.

It is also interesting at least to consider the consequences of formulating such a program as a partially unfunded federal mandate. That would induce the states to reallocate their own educational funding towards enhancing minority student achievement. But it would also cause budget stress and controversy at the state level, which could adversely affect the program's prospects. However, if the state requirements were phased in over a period of years, the effects on state educational funding priorities might be very beneficial.

As Ms. Pelosi points out, more needs to be done. The furor surrounding Senator Lott's departure from GOP leadership may make such a program more likely. So perhaps more can be done.

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