Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Whither The Base?

Donna Brazille has more recently professed to have come to "like" John Kerry. But she has famously pointed out that the Kerry campaign has not paid nearly enough attention to minorities and women, and that the Republicans are doing a far better job of grass-roots campaigning. She is correct in her assessment, and the results are increasingly apparent, as in this report from Terry M. Neal right there in Roxbury, the center of Boston's African-American community:

Roxbury has long been the center of black life in Boston, and it's no surprise that all of the people we talked to here today said they planned on voting for Kerry. What was perhaps surprising is that none of them said they had ever seen Kerry campaigning in their neighborhoods or heard of him doing so, and that they had no special affinity for him.

This seemed to reflect the criticism from African American leaders that Kerry has done little to appeal to black, urban voters. The fact that black voters in his own state seem ho-hum about him in any other year might be a cause of alarm. But this is not a normal year, and the issue isn't so much whether blacks will vote for the Democrat, but whether they will come out in significant numbers at all.

"Kerry is the man," barber Louis Richardson, 42, told us, after launching into a long, angry tirade against Bush. Later in the conversation, however, he complained that Kerry's personality was "weak" compared to Bush's, and chided the candidate for never coming to Roxbury.

Check out the video of our visit

Mr. Neal and Ms. Brazille know what they're talking about. A major reason for the Democratic election disaster in 2002 was low turn out of minority voters. I have only one real reservation about Mr. Neal's observations: I think the problems between the Democrats and minority communities (including African-Americans - but especially Hispanics) run far deeper than anything that could be fixed with some campaigning.

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