If Senator John McCain needed to prove that he is a real Republican, he did it when he continued an old Republican tradition of utterly inept attempts to appeal to black voters.
Senator McCain was booed at a recent memorial on the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In typical Republican fashion, he tried to apologize but the audience was not buying it and let him know it.
Why would Senator McCain choose a venue where his rejection was virtually guaranteed? Not only did he not get his message out, the message that came out through the media is that this black audience rejected him, which is readily portrayed as if blacks in general rejected him.
The Republican strategy for making inroads into the black vote has failed consistently for more than a quarter of a century. Yet it never seems to occur to them to change their approach.
The first thing that they do that is foredoomed to failure is trying to reach blacks through the civil rights organizations and other institutions of the black establishment. The second proven loser is trying to appeal to blacks by offering the same kinds of things that Democrats offer— token honors, politically correct rhetoric and welfare state benefits.
Blacks who want those things know that they can already get them from the Democrats. Why should they listen to Republicans who act like imitation Democrats?'
These are not the blacks whose votes Republicans have any realistic hope of getting. Nor do the Republicans need the votes of all blacks. If just 20 percent of blacks begin voting Republican, the Democrats are lost.
The question then is how to have a shot at getting the votes of those blacks who are not in thrall to the current black "leaders" and who on many issues may be conservative.
First of all, you don't get their votes by approaching them from the left, when that is neither their orientation nor yours. Issuing stamps honoring Paul Robeson and Kwanzaa are not the way to reach those blacks whom Republicans have any realistic chance of reaching.
Trying to reach blacks through civil rights organizations that are totally hostile to your message is like a quarterback trying to throw a pass to a receiver surrounded by opposing defenders. That just leads to a lot of interceptions and touchdowns for the other team.
That is essentially what has been happening to the Republicans, as far as the black vote is concerned, for decades on end. Someone once said that a method which fails repeatedly may possibly be wrong.
The truth is something that can attract people's attention, if only for its novelty in politics. There is no need for Republicans to try to pose as saviors of blacks. Democrats do that and they have more experience doing it.
A sober presentation of the facts— "straight talk," if you will— gives Senator McCain and Republicans their best shot at a larger share of the votes of blacks. There is plenty to talk straight about, including all the things that the Democrats are committed to that work to the disadvantage of blacks, beginning with Democrats' adamant support of teachers' unions in their opposition to parental choice through vouchers.
The teachers' unions are just one of the sacred cow constituencies of the Democratic Party whose agendas are very harmful to blacks.
Black voters also need to be told about the tens of thousands of blacks who have been forced out of a number of liberal Democratic California counties by skyrocketing housing prices, brought on by Democratic environmentalists' severe restrictions on the building of homes or apartments.
The black population of San Francisco, for example, has been cut in half since 1970— and San Francisco is the very model of a community of liberal Democrats, including green zealots who are heedless of the consequences of their actions on others.
Then there are the effects of tort lawyers in raising prices, liberal judges turning criminals loose and other influential Democratic Party constituencies whose effects on blacks are strictly negative.
Where should these and other messages be delivered to blacks, if not through the existing black organizations?
That message can be delivered as part of televised speeches addressing other major issues facing the country. It can be delivered as part of advertisements in the general media and separately in advertisements in newspapers, magazines and television programs with a black audience.
Logistics are not the problem. Insistence on following a repeatedly failed game plan is.
To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.