(Posted 14 Jun 2006)
Every month or so the press seems to run another round of stories about the Maryland Senate Race, Michael Steele, and the failure of Democratic Party leaders to embrace a Black candidate.
A frequent idea in such stories is that the Republican Party hopes to pickup some number of Black votes for Steele from dissatisfied Democrats, including those in Prince George's, Steele's home county.
For example, writing recently in Human Events, Robert Novak titles an article "Michael Steele: Democrats' Worst Nightmare." He starts by giving an example of a Black high school principal in the county who is supporting Steele (and who has more recently come under investigation for misapproriatian of his school's funds).
A little earlier, the Associated Press' Kristen Wyatt wrote a long piece, picked up by many newspapers, entitled "Republicans Pin Hopes on Black Candidates." (Post version)
In March, the New York Times ran a long, thoughtful piece, "Why Is Michael Steele a Republican Candidate?" by Michael Sokolove.
Also in March, Jon Ward wrote in the Washington Times, "Black vote no longer a lock for Democrats."
And similar stories appeared in the Post and elsewhere ever since Steele announced his candidacy last fall.
But are the Republican really serious about getting Black votes for Steele in Prince George's County?
I don't think so!
It has been said that all politics are local. What are the Republicans offering locally?
Nothing! So far there are no Republican candidates for any county office or any legislative race within the county.
It seems to me that Steele could help local Republican candidates, and vice versa. A Black, even a Democrat, voting for Steele, has already decided not to vote a straight Democratic ticket, and might consider supporting local Republicans. Likewise, someone prompted to vote for a Republican for local office would likely be an easy added vote for Steele.
And why would Blacks vote for any local Republican candidates. Well, let's look at the record from the possible viewpoint of the (apparently nonexistent) local Republican operative.
Democrats have had virtual complete control of the county for two decades.
What have they delivered? A school system that is the second worst in the state and also second worst in the Washington area. The second highest murder rate in the state and in the Washington area. The highest rate of car thefts and violent carjacking in the state. And what many Democratic voters consider unchecked development in far suburban and rural areas of the county,
What do the Democrats seem to be offering for the future? More of the same--reelection of most incumbents, and election of newcomers blessed by those incumbents.
The situation would seem to present a great opportunity for the Republicans to make some inroads by offering alternatives to local voters and picking up Steele votes along the way. Even though the Republicans would likely lose most races, they would have a chance to spread an alternative message and begin to rebuild their party in the county.
So what's the Republican plan? If they have one, it must be a well-kept secret. The county Republican "leadership" is all but invisible. They are never mentioned or quoted in the press as one might expect from an opposition party. The county party's website is out of date and uninformative. The state party's website virtually ignores the county. What seems most likely is that the Republicans will simply continue to concede Prince George's County to Democrats, and let the county's Black voters live with the consequences of blindly supporting a Democratic Party that offers little in return.
In any case, the Republicans have certainly convinced me that (1) the hype about Black votes for Republicans like Steele isn't very serious, and (2) voters who want better schools, fewer murders, etc., ought to be both asking the Democratic incumbents some hard questions and looking for alternatives in the Democratic primary.