Tuesday, October 24, 2006


GOP Minority Outreach Implosion?

Well, that didn't last too long.

Black and Latino religious organizations -- wooed over the last couple of years --
already tiring of the GOP?

A major effort to draw Latinos and blacks into the Republican Party, a central element of the GOP plan to build a long-lasting majority, is in danger of collapse amid anger over the immigration debate and claims that Republican leaders have not delivered on promises to direct more money to church-based social services.

President Bush, strategist Karl Rove and other top Republicans have wooed Latino and black leaders, many of them evangelical clergy who lead large congregations, in hopes of peeling away the traditional Democratic base. But now some of the leaders who helped Bush win in 2004 are revisiting their loyalty to the Republican Party and, in some cases, abandoning it.

"There is a fissure, and I doubt it will be closed in this election," said the Rev. Luis Cortes Jr., a Republican who founded the annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast that has featured Bush every year since 2002. His Philadelphia-based Esperanza USA boasts a national affiliate network of more than 10,000 churches.

The Latino backlash has grown so intense that one prominent, typically pro-Republican organization, the Latino Coalition, has endorsed Democrats in competitive races this year in Tennessee, Nebraska and New Jersey. The coalition is chaired by Hector Barreto, the former administrator of the Small Business Administration under Bush; its president is a former strategist for the Republican National Committee.
I worked with that president, Robert de Posada, several years back at the RNC. He is quoted as saying that it would be a "miracle" for the GOP to get 25 % of the Latino vote this year.
Causing new wrinkles in the White House relationship with evangelicals is the Kuo book, "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction," in which he describes top White House aides embracing religious conservatives in public while calling them "nuts" behind their backs.

One leading black evangelical who has been a White House guest, Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. of the Hope Christian Church in Maryland, wrote of a similar incident this month.

Jackson railed against senior administration officials who, he said, had insulted clergy at a meeting this year by dismissing their contribution to Bush's reelection in 2004. He also complained about "the GOP's failure" to react speedily to the House page scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley.

Jackson still supports some Republicans, including Michael Steele, an African American candidate for Senate in Maryland. But in an essay on the website townhall.com, Jackson offered a caution for the party: "Evangelicals must ask themselves if we can work in harmony with a group that takes us for granted and compromises on major moral principles."
In 2004, Bishop Jackson's profile was definitely on the rise. He seemed to be positioning himself as a true conservative answer to Rev. Jesse Jackson -- without coming across as well, to be honest, slightly nuts like the "other Rev. Jesse" -- Jesse L. Peterson, favorite of Sean Hannity, but someone who can't be taken seriously.

Unlike Peterson, Harry Jackson actually had a real, live, congregation -- and seemingly the wearwithal to become a true political player among religious conservatives.

This apparent souring on the party is diturbing, to say the least.

A serious implication of this minority unrest is that it creates the opposite effect of what Dick Morris and Eileen McGann mention in their latest column -- the "coming home" factor. The writers say that the election is moving back into a "toss-up" on whether the GOP can hold onto the House because Republican voters are "coming home" to the party. If, however, this LA Times story is correct, it would suggest that, after a few years of flirting with Bush and the Republican Party, the handful of apostate minority voters are also "coming home" -- back to the Democrats.

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