When a political party goes on public record to establish a foundational principle, that declaration should be studiously upheld and its members should hold one another accountable for its violation.
Many Republicans and conservatives remember the phrase "to assure that the Republican Party is open and accessible to all" as being part of the last sentence in the preamble of the Republican National Convention's (RNC) "Rules of the Republican Party," adopted on August 12, 1996. The party of Lincoln is now called into question by news reports that prominent Republicans have spoken before or are members of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group.
Since learning that Georgia Representative Robert Barr, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and South Carolina RNC National Committeeman Buddy Witherspoon had ties with the CCC, I, as national president of an organization dedicated to racial reconciliation, have reached out to those alleged to be members of the CCC and urged them to disassociate themselves from the group.
In January, I issued a national press release calling upon Republican leaders and conservative groups to end their silence on this issue. If Republicans ever intend to break the Democratic Party's monopoly on minority voter loyalty and shake the image of being racially exclusive, they must unequivocally denounce racist associations.
I wrote to RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson to commend his late January statement in which he called for all Republican Party members to resign or disassociate themselves from the CCC. I also asked him to go further by establishing a "zero tolerance" policy toward members who associate themselves with groups touting racial supremacy and creating a mechanism for removing them; initiating an internal investigation and full disclosure of such associations and their extent and implementing short- and long-term outreach efforts to minorities.
Shortly thereafter, I requested a personal meeting with Chairman Nicholson to discuss these issues and outreach to the Christian community. Initial response has been positive, but no meeting date has been set.
In all fairness, I must say that since the reports first surfaced, Representative Barr and Majority Leader Lott have forsaken the CCC. Through spokesmen, they backed away from the CCC, claiming ignorance of the Council's views. But two months after learning of the group's racist ideas, Committeeman Witherspoon has not resigned. I have spoken to him personally. He believes that the South Carolina CCC is not racist, and blamed the media for blowing this out of proportion. He also claimed that his membership was merely a matter of making a couple of contributions and nothing more. I suspect, like most Republicans, he just does not understand that any association at all with a group like the CCC is fatal to race relations and any credible minority outreach by the Republican Party.
As a freedom-loving American, I support the right of my fellow citizens to associate with any law-abiding group. However, public officials must be held to a higher standard. Any public office holder who associates with groups promoting racial division in America should be dismissed from the Democratic and Republican Party.
After the November elections, South Carolina GOP Chairman Henry McMaster stated, "The Republican Party will redouble our outreach efforts, specifically to women, minorities and young people...When the Republican Party's message is clear, we win."
With all due respect, Mr. Chairman, in this case, you lose. The message is muffled and muddy. The Republican Party may be "open and accessible to all," but with members associating with groups like the CCC, it is no surprise that African-Americans still do not feel welcome.
(Bishop Earl W. Jackson is a member of the African-American leadership
network Project 21 and the national president of The Samaritan Project in
Chesapeake, Virginia. He can be reached at EJMSPWest@livenet.net.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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