Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently read my column of a few days ago that ended by imploring him to stop whining and just seat Roland Burris and Caroline Kennedy. The upside is having two junior members that the leadership can control; the downside is very, very problematic for two constituencies of the Democratic Party who may take the rejection(s) as a personal insult – African Americans and Women. In New York State, the gender connection is obvious; however, the Barack Obama / Roland Burris connection is more intriguing because it could serve as a opportunity for Republicans to regain parity in attracting black voters.
In 1956, Republican Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon won 40% of the black vote. In fact, Dr. King, his father (MLK, Sr.), and Jackie Robinson were all Republicans. In October 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia. Coretta King called the White House to get assistance from the Republican administration. Eisenhower and Nixon failed to act on her request to help free her husband. The Kennedy campaign, as well as JFK himself, took the risk and helped King to get out of prison. This one incident was instrumental in moving large segments of black voters from Republican to Democrat.
The opportunity today revolves around the seating of Roland Burris in the United States Senate. As important as MLK, Jr. was in the 1960 election, the refusal of seating Burris today may be the lever that shifts African American voters into looking at the Democratic party with a critical eye. If Reid turns away Burris, and if this political drama goes to the Supreme Court, Reid will have given Republicans a wedge issue to drive African Americans away from the Democratic party… an opening that Republicans have been trying to exploit for over 20 years.
If I were Michael Steele, I would go to Capitol Hill today and speak on Burris’ behalf. Steele was the Republican nominee for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat in 2006. Steele, in his position as GOPAC chair and running for RNC chair, can bring Republicans on board in calling for Burris to be seated. JFK positioned himself as Dr. King’s friend by getting him out of an Atlanta jail one month before Election Day; Steele can position himself, and his party, as friends of African Americans across this country by helping to get Burris seated in the United States Senate.
I read that Reid is considering seating Burris after all, that would be the politically wise choice on Reid’s part. Obama is not even President yet and Harry Reid may cause the resurrection of the Republican Party by alienating the most loyal voting block within the Democratic Party. Two months after a landslide victory, the Democratic party is standing on the verge of imploding under its own arrogance… “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Faculty, Department of Political Science, Towson University. Graduate from Liberty University Seminary.