Blacks in the mainstream: calling the GOP
The Reagan administration's policies have undermined protection of black political and economic rights nurtured over the last quarter century. Yet the recent Tidewater Conference of Republicans resolved ''to design and implement programs to fully integrate black Americans into the mainstream of the private economy.'' It is time for the Republican Party to help Americans bear the discomfort necessary to fully integrate blacks into political and economic life.Skip to next paragraph
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Why should the nation commit itself to a long-term, politically controversial , and economically expensive program in this era of retrenchment? The present situation promises decades of conflict and stalemate. The Democratic Party has won black loyalty by leading the legislative battle for political integration, and by supporting a moderate program of economic integration. The Republican Party risks continuation of a Democratically aligned electorate unless it attracts a permanent white majority or wins more than 30 percent of the black vote.
There is little evidence that the 1980 election, in which white voters determined the outcome, signals a long-term realignment. The Democratic Party thus need only propose moderate political and economic policies to blacks so long as their opponents offer none. The Republicans can win the presidency more consistently if they compete with the Democrats for black voters, which means they must propose political and economic integration, rather than token or symbolic programs.
In the economic arena, American reindustrialization will require full use of the nation's natural and human resources. If blacks remain segregated from full participation in the economy, the nation's irrational and unprofitable employment of its human workforce will weaken its international economic position, and will bequeath these problems to future generations. The question is not whether the nation can afford to sustain political integration and to implement economic integration--but whether it can afford not to.
Successful implementation of such a program will require bipartisan support, a precedent already established. From 1964 through 1980 the civil rights revolution won recognition in the Congress through the creation of a bipartisan alliance committed to black political integration. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, as well as the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, 1970, and 1972 could not have been passed without Republican and Democratic agreement. The 1982 renewal of the Voting Rights Act has won bipartisan support in the House (389-24) and in the Senate where 65 members have cosponsored S 1992.
Economic integration is the heart of a program of racial reform. It requires that blacks achieve relative equality with whites in income, skilled employment, wealth, and business entrepreneurship. Because economic integration involves redistribution, Lyndon Johnson's ''war on poverty'' elicited lukewarm Democratic support and considerable Republican hostility.