Dear Mr. Page:

Your 18 June 2006 column, “Rescuing the Party of Lincoln,” faults the GOP for deserting your family. Did it? Your personal success would be held up by the party as proof that its policies work.

The GOP is still the Party of Lincoln, even though it pandered to racists in the late 1960s. It pandered without embracing racist thinking. It’s not, however, the party of FDR.

If race is less an issue today than when you grew up, should we focus more on, as you suggest in your penultimate paragraph, providing opportunities for those “facing poverty, sub-standard housing and high unemployment?”

Here the Party of Lincoln draws the line and that likely explains its hostility to Jack Kemp’s proposal. Color blindness is fine; social welfare programs aren’t.

While there’s still a strong overlap between race and poverty, maybe it’s no longer as stark as it used to be. That might be causing some of today’s confusion. Look at the recent NCAA basketball champions. Nobody labeled the University of Florida basketball champions the rich kids’ team, but in some ways it was.

Two Florida players are the sons of NBA pros and another, the son of a top tennis star. Did these well-to-do kids receive full athletic scholarships? Probably. Sure, they earned a bundle of money for the university, but their scholarships didn’t give them an opportunity that their parents couldn’t have given them.

We all read about Duke’s lacrosse scandal: race and sex. Some reporters caught the scent of the Great Gatsby, noting that most Duke players came from wealthy suburban families and the women were poor. Nobody asked: “Did these wealthy suburbanites receive full athletic scholarships?” Lacrosse doesn’t earn Duke any money, but the university still gave the players educational opportunities the parents could have provided and free, costly athletic tutors to boot.

Why has our thinking on how to provide opportunities become so muddled?

Somehow, after listening to the estate tax debate and Googling for information on one of the backers of that GOP effort, the Dorrance family (Campbell Soup heirs), I don’t see the GOP moving in the direction of providing more help to those in poverty.

The GOP doesn’t care about a family’s race, nor does it care if it’s poor. You’re really asking for a change, not a rescue.


Jack Martens