Roger L. Simon

The Mehlman Delivers

Okay, awful pun (even for Karl Mallone fans), but an interesting speech today by RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman to the NAACP National Convention. In it, Mehlman (refreshingly) even admits that his party was wrong at different times in the past on civil rights. Of course so was the other party:

The history of the other party is a different one. Democrats were the party of Jim Crow and Democratic filibusters blocked progress for decades.

Despite this history, the Democratic Party by the 1960s had something real and tangible to overcome this legacy. Lyndon Johnson, a Democratic President, signed what in my opinion were the most important laws of the 20th century: the civil rights act, voting rights act, open housing law.

By the 70s and into the 80s and 90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out.

Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican Chairman to tell you we were wrong.

But if my party benefited from racial polarization in the past, it is the Democratic Party that benefits from it today.

I know it is not in my interest as chairman of the Republican Party for close to 90% of African-Americans to vote for the Democrat every election. But more important, it’s not in the interest of African-Americans for 90% to vote for the Democrat every election.

And it’s not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized.

The whole thing’s worth a look.

UPDATE: It’s interesting to consider Mehlman’s approach in comparision to Howard Dean’s hortatory pronouncements.