week began in high anticipation and, for most politically conscious
African Americans, great anxiety. George Bush was once again
wallowing in Mississippi mud, his U.S. Court of Appeals nomination
of Charles Pickering up for a second time before the Senate
Judiciary Committee. History seemed about to march backwards
on affirmative action, as Bush prepared to throw the weight
of his Justice Department behind opponents of diversity at the
University of Michigan law school.
do Black Republicans stand on these burning issues of day? What
counsel will they offer their President? Is there an alternative
approach, a more nuanced message, a middle way, some unique
contribution that African American Republicans can make to the
larger political conversation? The people and the press cried
out for the voices of Black Republicanism to make themselves
played reflections on Armstrong Williams' bald and shiny head.
The Trent Lott affair had been a hustler's godsend, a once in
a lifetime opportunity for Williams to appear to play the game
of Mau-Mau with his paymasters and clients in the GOP. There
was gonna be a showdown, he seemed to promise as he grumbled
ominously through the holidays. Vexed and scowling, the gruesome
TV talking head demanded that his party "adequately address
issues of importance to African-Americans, namely racism and
violence," and warned, "Without a forum with which
to discuss these concerns, the Republicans will have trouble
remaining a long-term, stable governing body."
anointed himself the man of the hour who would pull this forum
together whether the white folks in the party wanted it,
or not - at least, his tone suggested as much. On Monday,
the media assembled.
the press was Terry Neal, a conservative-friendly Black columnist
for the Washington Post. Neal's job is to interpret the inner
workings of Black goings-on, so he asked, What's going on? What
about the Pickering nomination? Affirmative action? Where do
Black Republicans stand? In his column, Neal wrote:
said neither the Pickering nomination nor the University of
Michigan case came up. Asked why such an important topic was
not discussed, Williams replied: "You think that's important?"
you have it. The Armstrong Williams-choreographed Black Republican
resembled a middle-aged job fair than a serious political gathering.
And that's what it was - no more, no less. Not, mind you, a
job fair for 40 million Black Americas but, rather, a kind of
seminar for a tiny rump of ambitious functionaries and hustlers
in the GOP political orbit. About a dozen of them.
came with no political demands, because they have none of their
own. They presented no innovative programs or policy statements;
nothing so grand has ever crossed their minds. It did not occur
to them to invoke the yearnings of the masses, because they
speak solely for themselves.
brought with them their only assets: their Black faces. "It
starts with the faces," Williams said. Apparently, it ends
there, as well.
mutual assent of the face-men and Republican leadership, Armstrong
Williams is to be Personnel Director for this exercise in bacon
and appointment politics. The rest of Black America are simply
consumers of the images that Williams has been contracted to
assemble and display.
I want to see come out of these meetings, more than anything
else, is a Republican Party unified behind a push - unlike anything
yet attempted - to recruit conservative black candidates for
office from all over our country," said Williams, after
clearing the arrangement with Republican National Committee
Chairman Mark Racicot, the man with the deep pockets.
is a giant money pot in this deal for Williams, whose public
relations firm, the Graham Williams Group, co-founded with Oprah
boyfriend Stedman Graham, specializes in crafting benign racial
images for the institutional Right. Plus, as a one-man propaganda
network operating through print, radio and television, Williams
can service the same Black candidates and appointees that he
- as the GOP's Black headhunter - selects as worthy of high
visibility. (For more, see
Commentary of Dec
Thurmond's protégé has staged a coup. Representing
no one, spouting views that few Black Republicans even share,
and having never run for office or led any organization indigenous
to the Black community, Williams has talked himself into the
center of the ruling party's money stream.
only 50 Republicans among the nation's 9,040 Black elected officials,
Williams can make a mint
grooming candidates for decades to come. However, the message
of Williams-style Black Republicanism will differ not a hair
from the GOP's standard, Hard Right dogma. "We must go
forward with our agenda," Williams told National Public
Radio. He criticized Trent Lott for "backtracking"
on Republican principles on BET, especially regarding opposition
to affirmative action. "We can't back down," said
Armstrong Williams package is almost elegant in its simplicity:
more Black faces, the same racist message. And the desultory
dozen that he brought to the table will all get paid.
of them don't want much - just bigger props. Presidential appointee
Harold Doley talked about guys like himself. "In the corporate
nomenclature, deputy secretaries are the chief operating officers
of their departments," he said. "They preside over
more than half the U.S. budget. In the Bush administration,
many of them are black guys, and no one knows their names. The
new invisible men are African American Republicans."
problem. The Armstrong Williams consulting machine can schedule
enough press releases and photo opportunities to fill a year's
worth of Black Enterprise magazines with Black Republican faces,
if need be. Ebony, too.
time will tell" what will ultimately result from the meeting
with Racicot and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said Williams,
coyly. "The good news is that Senator Frist has asked us
to go out and find people for him."
doable plan for a man who can sell snake oil back to the snakes.
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