by Mike Allen
Thursday, July 14, 2005; Page A04
It was called "the southern strategy," started under Richard M. Nixon in 1968, and described Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue -- on matters such as desegregation and busing -- to appeal to white southern voters.
Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, this morning will tell the NAACP national convention in Milwaukee that it was "wrong."
"By the '70s and into the '80s and '90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out," Mehlman says in his prepared text. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
Mehlman, a Baltimore native who managed President Bush's reelection campaign, goes on to discuss current overtures to minorities, calling it "not healthy for the country for our political parties to be so racially polarized." The party lists century-old outreach efforts in a new feature on its Web site, GOP.com, which was relaunched yesterday with new interactive features and a history section called "Lincoln's Legacy."
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean spoke to the NAACP yesterday and said through an aide: "It's no coincidence that 43 out of 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus are Democrats. The Democratic Party is the real party of opportunity for African Americans."