Only minutes after Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman asked black voters to consider supporting the GOP, NAACP President Bruce Gordon talked about his deep concerns about Samuel Alito, the Bush administration’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
“I sense that this is a nomination that may not be consistent with the America that Rosa Parks sat down to create,” Gordon told the crowd Tuesday at an NAACP fundraiser, where frequent references were made to Parks, the civil rights leader who died last week at 92.
During the luncheon, Mehlman made a pitch for the GOP to those “who are not satisfied with your children’s schools, with where you work and where you live, with your retirement.”
Mehlman’s visit to the NAACP event was the latest of almost three dozen visits with black groups this year aimed at strengthening black support for the GOP. President Bush got the support of only one in 10 black voters in both 2000 and 2004.
The GOP outreach to black Americans has been made more difficult, however, by some administration policies and actions, and the slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina, which left many poor black people stranded in New Orleans.
“The Republicans lost their credibility in the African-American community with Katrina,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said after the luncheon.
The nomination of Alito, a federal appeals court judge, is also causing concern in the black community at a time that NAACP leader Gordon is trying to build stronger relations with the White House.
Gordon said the Supreme Court nomination has him worried, saying, “If I see the extreme right celebrating this nomination, that puts my antenna up.” But he’s still trying to build a better relationship with Bush.
“The oldest and largest civil rights organization should have access to the president,” said Gordon, who met with Bush in September to discuss Katrina recovery. “We don’t have to agree on everything, but to be totally out of communication is totally unacceptable.”
Some NAACP event attendees said they were pleased Mehlman was seeking their support, but they expressed skepticism.
“I liked his comments, but I do think it’s going to be a tough sell,” said retiree Jeanette Mobley. “It’s one thing to say it, but we need to see action.”