Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Lot of Hot Air

The problem with being willing to identify oneself too completely with one side in a two-way struggle is that your threats to keep on backing that side carry absolutely no threat value whatsoever.

PHILADELPHIA, July 13 - Francine Poller does not consider herself a political person. In her 71 years, she cannot remember ever asking someone to vote a certain way. But this year, she will urge people to vote for Senator John Kerry.

Or, more precisely, against President Bush.

"Before this, I was going to vote for Kerry," Ms. Poller, a retired teacher from Waycross, Ga., said. "Now I'm going to work for Kerry. Bush doesn't realize it, but he's putting fat on the fire for Kerry. He's firing us up for Kerry."
The inanity of this hollow threat is astounding. Whose minds are you going to change by "working for Kerry", Ms. Poller, those of your fellow Democrats? I very much doubt that you know anyone who you might persuade to vote against Bush who wasn't already going to do so anyway.
What has gotten Ms. Poller worked up is Mr. Bush's decision not to address the 95th annual convention of the N.A.A.C.P. this year, making him the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to meet with the group during an entire term in office, N.A.A.C.P. officials said. Mr. Bush attended the N.A.A.C.P. convention as a presidential candidate in 2000, but as president he has rejected all invitations to address the group.

Many of the 8,000 people attending this year's convention view the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as a pillar of the black establishment - and Mr. Bush's refusal to attend as a snub of all blacks. "He doesn't realize how many African-Americans he is thumbing his nose at," said Liz Deas, 45, from West Columbia, S.C.
Speak for yourself, buddy. The N.A.A.C.P doesn't speak for me, and I don't feel in the least offended that he's chosen to skip a meeting with an organization that is so completely beholden to the Democratic Party, and whose leaders have already called him the devil incarnate. He'd be a fool to do otherwise.
Whether their anger means more votes for Mr. Kerry remains in question. Blacks are already a core Democratic constituency, and experts said he would receive 85 percent or more of the black vote this year.

A bigger issue is whether Mr. Kerry can energize black voters, who have yet to show much excitement for his candidacy. The difference between simply winning the black vote and generating a large turnout could be crucial, experts said.

Mr. Kerry came under widespread criticism this year from black writers, officials and strategists who complained that his campaign was not reaching out enough to blacks. Many people here also said they knew little about Mr. Kerry, who is scheduled to address the convention on Thursday.

"Kerry needs an introduction to the African-American community," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist who was among those who criticized him. "This is Kerry's opportunity to showcase not just the strong support he has with African-Americans, but really to hit it out of the ballpark."
Yawn. This is all completely meaningless rhetoric. Let's look at the facts: 91 percent of black voters supported Gore in 2000, and that election actually recorded an unusually high black turnout rate. What exactly can black voters do beyond that to hurt Bush in any way? Ab-so-lute-ly nothing.

The flipside of this impotent rhetoric is that Kerry's campaign doesn't need to really do all that much to sell the candidate in a positive light to black voters, as they know full well that black voters are going to turn out like good little sheep for him no matter what he does or doesn't say or do. All Kerry has to do is still be breathing on election day and he'll be certain of getting 90 percent or more of the black vote, and all it'll take for him to get a high black voter turnout is to rerun the same old "Bush stole your vote" arguments and mix-in a few James-Byrd-style ambush advertisements.

In politics, even more than in courting, playing hard to get is the most effective strategy, and the sad thing is that African-Americans, unlike a lot of other minority interest groups, have the necessary number of votes to make their impact strongly felt, if they could get away from an unthinking identification with any one party.