Trent Lott's resignation as Senate majority leader should motivate the GOP to fully expunge its image as the party that does not care enough about African-Americans.
While Mr. Lott's comment indicated vestiges of what appeared to be deep-rooted racial bias, many in the GOP have assiduously worked to include African-Americans in the Republican party. Rather than lose that carefully laid ground, they must re-double their efforts to promote a policy agenda that uplifts members of every race.
But they'll have to do more party housecleaning, being extra careful not to cater to those segments of the population still harboring racist sentiments. GOP political strategists take note: The Confederate flag can be dropped as a vote-winning issue. So can stumping at Bob Jones University, which bars interracial dating. And it goes without saying that endorsing the segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens, as Lott did, is unacceptable.
Post-Lott, African-Americans will be scrutinizing the GOP even more closely. And while Republicans and Democrats legitimately differ over their approach to race issues, the GOP should be called on to more clearly explain how its policies benefit minorities.
Republicans, for example, can spell out how their economic ideas lift blacks from poverty and how they think those will ultimately work better than Democratic social programs. Lott's expected replacement, Bill Frist of Tennessee, is more closely aligned to Bush. He's in a good position to advance the president's statements on social policy ranging from education to healthcare to welfare reform and taxes.
The GOP now has a moment to reclaim its heritage as the party of Lincoln. It should seize it forthwith.