Dems haven't helped blacks much
By: Larry Elder
As recently as 1956, the GOP captured 39 percent of the black vote. If Republicans can seize just 20 or 30 percent of the black vote, the Democratic Party -- and its ability to pull the country to the left -- could be stopped, if not reversed.
"The 'black vote'?" I said to a white Republican politician who asked my advice. "I'll tell you how to go after it, but you won't do it."
"Try me," he said.
Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, treat blacks like children. When a Republican addresses a black audience, you can make book on how long it takes before he refers to Martin Luther King Jr. Either he marched with King or his father did, or the next-door neighbor of his barber's nephew used to mow the Rev. King's father's lawn.
As long as the black vote is a referendum on empathy, compassion and "civil rights," Republicans lose. Nobody can "feel your pain" like a spread-the-wealth, entitlement-expanding, "close-the-inequality-gap" leftist.
"The struggle for civil rights is over," I told him. "The good guys won. The battle now is against wrongheaded 'compassionate' policies. But the most important issue -- by far -- is education."
Republicans need to ask blacks, "Are you better off?" Are blacks better off sending their children to assigned government schools -- as demanded by the teachers unions and the Democratic Party?
Inner-city parents know that urban government-run schools have a nearly 50 percent dropout rate and that even the kids who graduate often cannot read, write or compute at grade level. They know that poor teachers end up getting transferred to urban schools, where other parents are less likely to object to their incompetence.
This is known as the "dance of the lemons."
Urban government-run schools are often violent. But because the school funding is based on average daily attendance, principals are reluctant to kick out bad, disruptive kids.
Bad, disruptive kids help make bad schools.
Urban parents want choice. They want the right to send their kids to schools where they have a better chance of success. In California, a statewide referendum on vouchers failed, but it passed among black and Hispanic inner-city voters.
Teachers unions, whose political contributions go almost entirely to the Democratic Party, vehemently oppose vouchers. Yet teachers are more likely than non-teachers to send their own children to private schools.
Barack Obama opposes vouchers. In Chicago, he and Michelle sent their daughters to an expensive private school.
When the Obamas moved to Washington they made a big show of interviewing both public and private schools for Sasha and Malia. "There are some great public schools," said President Obama.
Apparently, not great enough. Obama picked Sidwell Friends, the same school attended by Chelsea, the daughter of President Clinton, another opponent of choice in government schools.
Two recent documentaries -- "The Lottery" and "Waiting for 'Superman'" -- show anguished urban parents trying to win their children a chance to attend better schools. A woman recently asked Obama whether the D.C. schools offer his daughters the same quality of education as a private school.
"I'll be blunt with you," said Obama. "The answer is no right now."
What Obama said next was jaw-dropping: "Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is for a mom or a dad who are working hard but don't have a bunch of connections."
Obama, in effect, said this: "Urban kids are trapped in lousy schools. The answer is more good schools. Because vouchers offer you choice and give government schools competition, teachers unions oppose vouchers. So do I. Maybe things will get better. In the meantime, it's Sidwell Friends for my kids."
The arrogance was breathtaking but completely reflective of Obama's elitism. He father had a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard. His mother had a Ph.D. in anthropology.
Yes, Obama was raised for a time by his maternal grandparents. But his grandmother was a bank executive, and his grandfather a successful salesman.
He went to Punahou, Hawaii's most exclusive prep school. Then for two years, Obama attended exclusive Occidental College in Los Angeles, before transferring to the Ivy League's Columbia University, after which he attended Harvard Law School.
A good education remains the best road to the middle class. And in today's cyber-world, a decent education means more than ever.
Where vouchers have been tried, test scores improved -- even by kids who did poorly in their previous government schools -- and parental satisfaction went up.
Obama calls himself "a skeptic of vouchers." I told the Republican politician he should go on the attack.
"Call Democrats hostile to the very interests of black parents, their most loyal voting bloc. Ask blacks, 'Are you better off?'"
"Jeez," he said. "I don't think I'm prepared to do that."
"You asked," I said.