Far away from the speeches of Jesse Jackson, the demands of Al Sharpton and the ranting of Louis Farrakhan, a quiet revolution is taking place in the role African-Americans play in politics. In the very heartland of the nation—in Pennsylvania and Ohio—the Republican Party is getting set to nominate black candidates for governor in the coming elections. In a nation that has not a single African-American governor—not one—from either party, this is its own little revolution.
These are not throwaway candidates in states where the GOP has no chance of victory. These are real candidates, chosen when there were plenty of white alternatives, that are en route to their party’s nomination, with real chances to win.
In Pennsylvania, former football great Lynn Swann stands poised to be designated as the Republican candidate at next week’s State Convention. The former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame, is seeking fame of another sort, trying to be the state’s first black governor.
In Ohio, a key swing state, Ken Blackwell, the Republican secretary of state, is running for the gubernatorial nomination in a state Republicans can win. In Maryland, Lieut. Gov. Michael Steele is seeking the open Senate seat.
Add these men to the possibility that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might heed Laura Bush’s advice and run for president, and a revolution may be in the making.
And as former Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma found out, African-Americans who reject the entitlement ethic and stand for self-reliance and individual upward mobility are very attractive to white voters. Asked to accept liberal ideology and big tax-and-spend programs as the price of supporting black candidates, many voters say no. But given a chance to find black candidates who share the electorate’s vision, most white voters jump at the chance.