August 11, 2000


Thinking The Unthinkable - Young, Black, Poor and Republican?

By Charles Jones

SAN FRANCISCO — Well, they almost did it. The Republican national convention with all its talk and imagery of party change nearly made me trade in my Democratic party affiliation for an invitation to the GOP.

I've been disillusioned with the Democratic party message of economic and social complacency toward people of color for awhile now — especially Jesse Jackson's "just wait patiently, and they'll give you what you need" revolving door idealism, leading black people to the promised land where no one's delivered. And while I know it's unthinkable for a black man (especially a poor one) to become a Republican, I now consider myself a political thrift shopper, searching more for the perfect fit than the brand name.

My brain was presoaked from the opening performance of the pledge of allegiance by a young Native American woman, and was in the wash cycle by the time Laura Bush floated onto the stage in a sea of colored kids. "The new and inclusive" Republican Party (or whatever) made the gestures and sounds of a party in progress, be it getting jiggy to the tunes of R&B crooner Brian McKnight, sobered by the finger wagging of Colin Powell, or cheering to the rantings of the WWF's "people's champion," The Rock (yes, "the great one" is a Republican).

A giant leap for mankind was made, considering that the crowning achievement of the last two Republican national conventions was breaking their own respective balloon-dropping records. And being the "new and inclusive" party that they are, it seemed that all were welcome and everyone enjoyed, except for when the only openly gay member of Congress spoke his peace. At which point the Texas crowd bowed their heads in prayer and protest, some holding upside-down American flags. Intolerant hicks aside, all seemed good, clean and in the spirit of fun, a platform we're not used to seeing the GOP stand on.

But in all the hoopla, that's what was missing — a real political platform (go to the GOP's web site, you won't find one there either). I mean, "get that money" is the unspoken foundation for all political activity, of course, but where's the "choose life! control gun control! and tax-breaks for the rich!" that we've all grown accustomed to. I refuse to believe the Republicans have done the 360 degree turnaround in political outlook that they would have us believe.

Aside from being told that after eight years I'm "tired of the Democratic routine," and recruiting my favorite wrestler to lay the verbal smack down, they really didn't give me any reasons NOT to vote Democrat, or more importantly to vote Republican in November. Still, the smiles and handshakes almost got me, and it seems as if that was what they were counting on — viewers nationwide (all three of us) riding the new-found (or just bought) good vibes of the Republican party from here to November, creating a glut at the polls.

It was nice for a Republican to put a smile on my face, for once. And it was actually a joy to see the solidarity of both the party and the Bush family. But like father, like son, this year's convention was show without substance, full of falsified applause and empty smiles. Considering their age difference, you almost couldn't tell one from the other, even with "one thousand points of light." And that thought alone is more entertaining than, well, the Republican national convention.

Charles Jones is a 22-year-old father of three who writes for YO! Youth Outlook, a publication of Pacific News Service.

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