This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor.
It's a moment in politics that doesn't come around too often -- that moment when someone admits they've been wrong. It happened last week at the NAACP convention in Milwaukee.
Republican national chairman Ken Mehlman stood in front of the group and said, quote "some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization." Mehlman said that was wrong. The Republicans have made giant strides with Hispanics but have been less successful with African-Americans. Setting the record straight helps, but some of the wounds inflicted will be slow to heal.
In a tight race, race was the card that was often played. Willie Horton. John McCain's love child. Not pretty. Smart Republicans will turn the tables and ask African-Americans what the Democratic Party has done for them lately. The Democrats have been paralyzed by issues like school vouchers. If your kids were stuck in a lousy urban school could you afford to wait for the calcified and sometimes corrupt local system to improve? I'm not sure I could be that patient.
The Democrats may have helped pave the way to equality but, the question for both parties is, who is going to pave the way to prosperity? Education. Opportunity. A judiciary that's got your back.
The competition could benefit everyone.
Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many across the country.
By Harry Smith
Copyright 2005 CBS. All rights reserved.