Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Court Wars: Can the NAACP Deliver?

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond gave the usual, predictable and Civil Rights generation rant on Bush, race and the American way at the opening session of the organization's annual conference.

We say predictable because this is the headliner each year at every NAACP conference, in which rancorous rhetoric seizes the sensationalistic urges of journalists who find little purpose in learning about the NAACP's work (or the work it's supposed to do) and, instead, get sidetracked by the personalities. That's all part of the game, we guess ...

Bond: “There can be no issue of greater or more immediate importance than the upcoming confirmation battle, and we intend to be in the thick of the fight. One vote, for example, upheld affirmative action in higher education – and that vote belonged to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor."

But, we have to ask: what, exactly, does that fight entail? While Bond rails about White House indifference to civil rights in Milwaukee, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (D-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emerged from compromise talks with Bush two days later in D.C. Whether that made any substantial impact remains to be seen: Bush is more concerned about drawing potential Latino votes for the 2006 Congressional mid-terms and the 2008 race for his party than he is about human rights and equality.

But, we're curious as to how the NAACP plans to insert itself into this process in a way that is innovative and unique. Blasting Republicans half a continent away is one thing, but the true test is having a real seat at that table in the "smoke filled room." Bond always makes valid points, but if the NAACP isn't making any concerted impact on the PACs, pockets and lobbyist friends of the party that dominates Pennsylvania Avenue, all this noise is falling on deaf ears ...Will it be staged protests and picket signs on First Street that are supposed to play on the conscience of a political Establishment more concerned with carving pork barrel deals, raising campaign monies and smoky power lunches? Or will sleeves really roll up in an across party lines attempt at the serious, unapologetic and nasty political arm-twisting that's required in order to ensure the pick of an acceptable and fair nominee? We're looking for a new strategy in a new time: can the NAACP deliver?