James Rosen in today’s USA Today:
Yet the presumptive Republican nominee still stumped in areas such as South Philadelphia and “the Black Belt” in Alabama. This quixotic exercise — chasing black votes already resigned as lost — has become a quadrennial ritual for the GOP, an expenditure of time and money seemingly akin, in baseball terms, to running out a ground ball.
(Illustration by Web Bryant, USA TODAY)
McCain has already signaled how he might tackle the problem. When he was criticized for skipping a debate last year at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore, McCain asked that people “judge me on my long record and advocacy and work with the (black) community for some 24 years (in Congress) rather than whether I appear at one debate or not.”
The party’s record
This approach is fraught with peril. While no serious person accuses McCain of racism, he did, as a House freshman in 1983 — and as Democrats will surely point out this fall — vote against the establishment of a national holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “I was wrong, I was wrong,” McCain stated emphatically during a rain-soaked speech in Memphis on April 4, the 40th anniversary of King’s assassination. “I remind you that we can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing.”
McCain eventually did the right thing, vigorously supporting a state holiday in Arizona; but his mea culpa in Memphis met with boos and angry interruptions.
McCain might do better to run on his party’s record. While acknowledging the GOP has “some work to do in the African-American community,” McCain told a gathering at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, last September: “We have to remind ourselves and our constituents that we are the party of Abraham Lincoln.”