When RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman recently admitted and apologized for "past" Republican strategies that played on race, a casual observer might have thought that was the end of it. Maybe the White House missed the memo, because George Bush has seen fit to reward someone who has helped make those tactics more effective -- Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Will the newly contrite Republicans back away from Roberts' Rules on Race?
A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that the Republicans' use of racial tactics did not end with the 1960s as Mehlman would have us all believe. In fact, they have consistently used and benefitted from direct and, more often, indirect appeals to racial tensions to gain majority status.
The Sunday Washington Post places Roberts, an Assistant Attorney General under Ronald Reagan, in the "vanguard of a conservative political revolution in civil rights, advocating new legal theories and helping enforce the Reagan administration's effort to curtail the use of courts to remedy racial and sexual discrimination." The Post refers to Roberts' work on voting rights, busing and affirmative action, and the ability of individuals to sue states for civil rights violations. Most significantly, his work was not just about legal memoranda. It supported a larger effort "to burnish [Reagan's] presentation of the policies to Congress and the public" for political advantage and electoral gain.
"That was the '80s," Republicans might say. Well then, let's talk about Roberts' activity only five years ago. The Miami Herald has highlighted Roberts' role during the 2000 Florida recount fiasco that saw the disenfranchisement of thousands of older voters and racial minorities, partly the result of deliberate campaign tactics. Republicans understandably do not want to talk about the specifics of what Roberts did.
Is this the kind of new Republican Party that Mehlman insisted has come to the forefront? A party that wholeheartedly supports a Supreme Court nominee who has publicly and aggressively challenged the federal government's role in bringing more equal opportunity to racial minorities and women?
When will the Republican National Chairman, handpicked by George W. Bush, apologize for Roberts' Rules on Race? When will the President?