Black leaders push to re-elect Clinton GOP efforts condemned

'Enough analysis, it's now about action'

January 28, 1996|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- African-American leaders ended their election-year meeting yesterday with new resolve to end the Newt Gingrich-led revolution on Capitol Hill and to re-elect President Clinton despite his centrist rhetoric.

"There's been enough analysis -- it's now about action," said S. A. "Shep" Wilbun Jr., president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, as the seventh National Policy Institute concluded.

Throughout the institute's three-day gathering, hundreds of black politicians and civil rights and religious leaders condemned Republican efforts in Congress to cut government programs designed to help minorities and children.

They vowed to register enough new black voters in key congressional races this year to return control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.

"We have to go back and make sure the devil does not prevail," said William Cousins Jr., chairman of the Judicial Council of the National Bar Association.

Mr. Cousins' admonishment came just moments after the conference's final workshop on "Building a Civil Society" in which William Kristol, one of the most influential strategists in GOP circles, cautioned against "demonizing" political opponents."

"In civil law, we judge people's actions by their consequences -- we don't try to judge their souls," Mr. Kristol said. "In a civil society, you can challenge people's arguments but I think we should try as much as we can not to impute bad motives and bad faith to our opponents."

But Edwin Dorn, a senior black official at the Pentagon, complained that Republicans are using such code words as "quotas" and "welfare reform" with "full knowledge that they are going to explode" politically.

Mary Frances Berry, chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, accused Republicans of using "family values" against African-Americans, people who, she noted, had little but family values until civil rights laws removed the barriers to public accommodations and services.

"For most of our history, the state has been our enemy," she said. Now that blacks have a role in government, Republicans want to scale back its size and function. "We just got in," she added.

Roger Wilkins, a history professor at George Mason University, questioned the commitment of the Democratic Party as well as the GOP to the millions of young black males who are uneducated and "economically redundant."

"What is civil about [such] a society when it is not on anybody's political agenda to put the lives and the futures of these people on the political agenda except to preach to them about their lack of family values and the babies they are making?" Mr. Wilkins asked.

Reminding those in attendance that "power can concede nothing without a struggle," Mr. Wilkins added that "anybody who wants us to be civil while millions of our young people are being sacrificed to an economy and to a political regime that pays no attention to them are ridiculous."

Although Mr. Clinton came under some criticism during the three days of meetings and workshops, the president's conservatism was preferred to that of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the mastermind of the GOP takeover of Congress.

"It's very simple what we've got to do -- we've got to make them [congressional Republicans] accountable," said Florida state Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, the son of U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, a Florida Democrat.

"And we do that by registering voters and getting them out to vote," Mr. Meek said.

The National Coalition on Black Voter Participation, one of the organizations participating in the public policy conference, has targeted 83 House districts that African American voters can help elect Democrats -- enough to wrest control of the House away from the GOP.

"This is going to be a cleansing election," said James J. Ferguson, the director of the Washington, D.C.-based voter project.

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