Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments about Barack Obama being "light-skinned" and speaking with no "Negro dialect" offer Republicans a real opportunity -- but not the one they seem to think. Other than the entertainment value of watching Democratic senators and Al Sharpton briefly scurry around, like ants after the top of their anthill is disturbed, there is little or nothing to be gained by wondering aloud whether Harry Reid is a racist, by calling for him to step down as leader, or by accusing the Democrats of hypocrisy.
Harry Reid is many things, from union puppet to war defeatist to lame duck, but he's almost certainly not a racist. Accusing him of being one makes Republicans look petty.
Because Reid has, albeit to the nation's great detriment, maneuvered an all-but-dead health care "reform" bill through the Senate and due to his upcoming reelection bid, it is inconceivable that he will step down as Majority Leader. Pushing him to do so -- a push sure to end in failure -- makes Republicans look weak, like a spoiled child pounding his hands on his mother's leg when he doesn't get his way.
And accusing Democrats of hypocrisy -- even if true, which is a hard case to make in this situation -- is the single least effective charge against liberals. Liberals are not about principles, they are about outcomes. Their actions are not premised on a foundation of certain actions being inherently right or wrong nor are they weighed against campaign promises of a certain standard of behavior; rather they are utilitarian, believing that almost any actions are acceptable if they take one step further down the road toward their goal of government control over…everything.
Democratic promises of transparency lead to closed-door deals. Promises of fiscal discipline lead to record-shattering deficits. But Democrats don't care, and won't care; each broken promise was in the service of their desired outcome. Liberals will never be moved by charges of hypocrisy. In their minds, there is no such thing -- except for Republicans. Sure, some independent voters might be swayed by the accusation, but just as many will find it an unnecessary distraction and blame Republicans for taking their eye off the ball.
The responses of many Republican and conservative leaders to Harry Reid's somewhat bizarre remarks are indeed like stirring the sand at the top of the anthill: a little furious action visible at the top, but below the surface, the colony keeps on trudging through its daily routine barely aware of any disturbance.
Instead of the unproductive direct attack on Harry Reid, Republicans should instead use the opening to bring up to black Americans the fundamental and perpetual question: Why do you continue to support a political party whose actions have done more harm to the black community than any policy since Jim Crow?
The literal poster child for anti-black Democratic policies is any student from the D.C. school voucher program, canceled with Barack Obama's acquiescence by Senate Democrats to appease the National Education Association, one of the biggest contributors to Democrats' campaign coffers. Multiple surveys show that a majority of blacks favor vouchers to help get kids out of failing schools. And why wouldn't they, with studies showing that black students in voucher programs score substantially higher on national math and reading tests than black students stuck in the public school system?
There is nothing as insidious, as likely to keep a poor person poor, as a bad education. Yet, it is Republicans who argue for school choice even though "the party of rich white people" has little to gain from the policy and poor blacks have everything to gain.
Republicans should also point to Social Security personal accounts. The payroll tax to fund Social Security is generally the largest tax paid by low-income workers, many of whom are black. Sadly, blacks, especially males, have a shorter life expectancy than whites, making the current system effectively a transfer of wealth from young black men to old white women.
Social Security is not inheritable whereas personal accounts would be, potentially representing in the aggregate an enormous source of wealth for the black community. But Democrats fight bitterly against personal accounts because they would reduce the power of government and politicians. They would reduce the money flowing through government and cause lower-income Americans to suddenly recognize themselves as part of the investor class with a real stake in wise economic policy decisions.
There are other issues as well: Blacks are religious and socially conservative. And the Democratic Party's utter devotion to abortion on demand serves the wishes of Planned Parenthood, the organization founded by Margaret Sanger whose primary motivation was a racist eugenic drive to discourage and prevent blacks from having children.
It's true that the GOP has enormous hurdles to cross in order to get even a respectable minority of the black vote. But with elections decided as closely as they have been in recent years, peeling off just a single digit percentage of black voters for Republicans could make a very big difference in the makeup of governments across America.
Rather than flailing about calling Harry Reid a racist, Republicans and conservatives should take a smarter tack: Remind black voters at every turn that Reid's statements didn't reflect racism, but that the policies which he supports are as virulently racist in effect as anything one can find in modern America.