Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Grading the NAACP ...

NNPA's Hazel Trice Edney reports: "Although the head of the Republican National Committee and President George W. Bush have pledged to make a more concentrated effort to win over Black voters, 98 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate earned an F on the latest NAACP Civil Rights Report Card, compared to only 2 percent of Democrats receiving failing grades."

That accounts for over half the U.S. Congress receiving failing grades on civil rights issues of significance to the NAACP. Could we ask if that reflects more on the modern NAACP's ability to muster support for its priorities than it does on the attitudes or direction of the modern U.S. Congress?

“[Republican Party Chairman Ken] Mehlman has been out beating the bushes and saying that the Republican Party was appealing for the Black vote, but this is the most powerful evidence and continuing evidence that the Republicans have not realigned their public policy approaches to attract the Black vote,” says University of Maryland Political Scientist Ronald Walters.

To a certain degree that it true. But, there is the serious problem of the African American political community's collective inability to seriously realign its own public policy approach for the 21st century. The report card - in predictable form - highlights the glaringly poor performance of Republican lawmakers on legislative issues prioritized by the NAACP, but we caution against that being the ultimate measuring stick for such issues, particularly in a world increasingly defined by technological advances and economic globalization. And in the case of Black Congress members Harold Ford (D-TN) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) receiving a grade of "C," the NAACP must mature to a point where it is recognized that Black elected officials are not just representing traditional "Black" interests - they are elected officials obligated by the office to represent the demographics of their particular legislative districts.

The "civil rights" formula has matured into something much more complex and intricate, hence it deserves greater intellectual reflection than simply emphasizing the divergence between two political parties. The focus of this report card should not just question what party we have reason to align ourselves with, but whether we have reached a level of political maturity and leverage to control those parties as opposed to the other way around.