Going After the Black Vote
Jude Wanniski
August 7, 2000


Memo To: Dick Cheney
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Party Realignment

George W’s acceptance speech in Philadelphia said a lot of different things to different people, but to me it said he is serious about going after the black vote, which if successful will not only win the presidential election, but also give the GOP the Congress. This would be the first unified Republican Congress since 1952 when Eisenhower was elected (and in his first press conference as President announced he would NOT cut taxes as he had hinted he would during the campaign.) Because few Americans know you, and even fewer black American know you, so far you are being viewed as somehow different than GWB on the issue of “inclusion.” I know better, having first met you in 1969 when you were Don Rumsfeld’s deputy at the Office of Economic Opportunity. I also was completely aware of the critical role you played as Defense Secretary in choosing Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff.

I’m going to write quite a few “memos on the margin” to you as the campaign proceeds, and I probably will devote a high proportion of them to this matter of the black vote. In 1996, Bob Dole thought he made a stab at the black vote by asking Jack Kemp to be his running mate. It was a gesture, but his campaign team never believed the ticket could crack the black vote and so never expended any energy on it. Remember Dole turned down a chance to address the NAACP? His campaign strategists thought it would do little good and maybe do some damage. Throughout the fall campaign, Kemp tried as best he could to schedule events with black groups, but always faced grumbling from the strategists, who figured it was a hopeless cause. As long as there was no real commitment from the top of the ticket, no real effort was made reach out. The top of your ticket has made what appears to be a real commitment, but until we find out what the strategists think about spending real time and money on that effort, I won’t be able to see much chance of success. In 1996, I met with several top men in the Dole campaign, trying to get them to commit at least a few million dollars to black media out of the budget of more than $60 million. As far as I know, they did not budget ten cents.

This should be one of your first priorities, Dick, making sure this does not slip away. Campaign consultants who get commissions on the money they spend on television spots do not do nearly as well on print ads in black newspapers, radio spots on black stations, and plugs on black cable-tv talk shows. The Democratic National Committee has already funneled $7 million in soft money to the NAACP from their rich white contributors. Anything less than $3 million of your sizeable budget would look slim. You can make $3 million go a long way by getting the message right and putting it in the right places. You are going to get more than 95% of the GOP vote this time around, which means you can afford to spend this much on the black vote and perhaps an equal amount on Hispanic media. That means you should find people who have some experience in this realm and not rely on the usual folks who have been running all-white campaigns for the last half century.

One things you definitely should do is make a bookmark for http://blackelectorate.com and encourage GWB’s campaign strategist, Karl Rove, to do the same. The website is the best of those that focus on black political issues because the young man who runs it, Cedric Welch Muhammad, is almost always on the margin in his understanding of the political, economic and cultural world. It is at his site over the weekend that I spotted a piece by Crispin Sartwell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a newspaper that serves the black community, which took seriously the possibility of a realignment underway. In the process he mentioned you, which is why I decided to address this missive to you. Here is how he put it: “So any shift of African Americans toward the Republicans, if any ever happens, may well express a deep underlying resentment of government programs. But it is also likely to respond to demographics, as more African-Americans enter the middle and upper classes. Bush's choice of Dick Cheney, who is a very white man, was perhaps not particularly inspired with regard to the black vote. But the conduct of the convention has been, and may well signal a historic shift of power.”

I suggest you read the entire piece, to which I link here. He provides his personal e-mail address at the end of the article, so you might even contact him to get his thoughts on how you might be “inspired” with regard to the black vote. As you can sense from Sartwell’s observation, realignment is going to happen. You can help it along. I never met the man, but he himself may be on the margin, the place where change takes place.