Inclusion is not attraction Republican platform: The reason most blacks say, 'Include us out.'

August 24, 1996

BOB DOLE spoke with eloquence when he told the Republican National Convention that he wanted his party to be "broad and inclusive." He reminded listeners that it was "the party of Lincoln," and said anyone who did not want the party to be open to all races should head for the exits "which are clearly marked."

But the Republican problem isn't just throwing white racists out, it is drawing blacks in. Merely to say to them they can be included isn't enough. The party has to offer black voters attractive ideas and candidates. They are not going to head for the exits of their traditional home -- "the party of Lyndon Johnson" -- just on the basis of Mr. Dole's obvious sincerity and color-blindness, which he displayed again yesterday in a speech to the National Association of Black Journalists.

A touchstone issue to most blacks is affirmative action. Even blacks who are not sure that it is a good idea or a workable policy see a party's approach to it as indicative of their being welcome or not. The contrast between the two parties is significant.

Mr. Dole's platform says: "The sole source of equal opportunity for all is equality before the law. Therefore we oppose discrimination based on sex, race, age, creed or national origin. . . Because we believe rights inhere in individuals, not in groups, we will attain our nation's goal of equal rights without quotas or other forms of preferential treatment."

The Democratic civil rights plank says: "President Clinton is leading the way to reform affirmative action so that it works, it is improved, and promotes opportunity, but does not accidentally hold others back in the process. Senator Dole has promised to end affirmative action. He's wrong, and the President is right. When it comes to affirmative action, we should mend it, not end it."

Blacks thus have good reason to believe they will be included in a Democratic effort to re-craft affirmative action. They have good reason to believe Republicans consider affirmative action dead. Period. End of discussion.

Though platforms count, they are not the last word in a party's efforts to attract voters. If the party of Lincoln and Dole wants to win more black voters it must reach out. It has improved its image, with the recruitment of Colin Powell to its ranks and the choice of Jack Kemp as vice presidential nominee, but that alone won't attract the 20-25 percent of black voters the ticket needs to compete in key states.

Pub Date: 8/24/96

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