THE URBAN LEAGUE yesterday condemned "demagogues, bigots andpolitical chameleons of both parties who fan the flame of divisiveness by using code words like 'crime in the streets,' 'welfare mothers' and 'quotas.' "
It is true that a lot of political chameleons, bigots and demagogues use those words as code for racist sentiments, but it is also true that a great many of the people who are concerned about the issues of crime, dependency and affirmative action are neither racist nor white.
Let's just take crime in the streets. Let's just take murder. It is easier to compare victimization by race with murder than with other crimes. The race of the victim is always known, and the race of the offender is almost always known. The FBI, using local police department reports, says that in 1990 (the last year for which there are complete statistics) there were 10,453 murders. There were 5,279 black victims and 5,174 white victims. Blacks killed 4,934 blacks. Whites killed 4,450 whites. The rest of the murderers were of the other or another or of unknown race.
So in a nation about 85 percent white, being anti-crime, proportionally and rationally assessed, should be more appealing black voters that to white ones. For candidates for high office ++ not to consider it an issue would be unresponsive and irresponsible.
In fact, the leading Democrats running for president are tough on criminals. For the first time in I don't know when, Democratic presidential candidates are pro-capital punishment. At the New Hampshire debate last Sunday, both the front-runners, Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Bob Kerrey, came out for the death penalty. Senator Kerrey said he had voted for capital punishment bills. Governor Clinton said talk's cheap, he had signed two death warrants. This Friday he intends to actually throw the electric chair switch for an execution in Arkansas. On prime time television. No. Just kidding. It hasn't gone that far yet. I said yet.
The Urban League report quotes Julianne Malveaux of the National Citizens Commission on African-American Education as saying, "It is not likely that any of the Democratic contenders will make civil rights and parity a central part of their 1992 campaign." She also said the Republicans would not, either, thus setting up a campaign in which blacks voters were not really engaged.
I'm pretty sure she is wrong about that. I believe you will see plenty of competition among Democrats for black voters in the primaries here and in the other states where there are many black voters. They hold the key in some states and appear to be up for grabs.
As for the general election. In every election since 1964 blacks have voted lopsidedly -- that's 4-1, 5-1 -- Democratic. Partly cause, partly effect, Republicans have been writing off the black vote and Democrats have been taking the black vote for granted.
I have a hunch that neither is going to be true in 1992.