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Politics Mondays: E-Letter To The Hill and Jonathan E. Kaplan Re: Senator Sam Brownback and Race Relations

As is usually the case with your work, I read your recent article about the possibility of Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) running for president in 2008, "My Soul Is A Work In Progress", with great interest. It is another example of why I think you are one of the very best reporters among the Washington press corps. You consistently seem to be ahead of the curve, able to cover stories from unique angles and often unearth some 'news', like the details of Senator Brownback's bout with cancer in 1994, which to the best of my knowledge had previously never been spelled out publicly.

But I noticed that your otherwise very good article on Senator Brownback did not include an examination of something very striking about him – his rather unique and interesting views on American race relations.

Especially relative to other members of the Republican Party, we at have found Senator Brownback’s positions on the legacy of slavery, and the relationship between the United States, its government and the Native American to be rather sophisticated - and for the purposes of the focus of your article - relevant to his prospects in seeking the presidency in 2008. It is my view that still, over three years out from the conclusion of the 2008 campaign, Senator Brownback is uniquely positioned, if he so desires, to obtain a significant portion of the Black vote.

I first began to pay special attention to Senator Brownback a few years ago, particularly in the aftermath of the controversy over Senator Trent Lott’s remarks regarding Strom Thurmond. Mr. Brownback stood out among others in his stance on how the Republican Party could make amends or tighten its relationship with the Black electorate at the time. Of all of the Republican responses that I read and that we covered at, his was the only one that outright conveyed an attitude of receptivity toward consideration of the controversial subject of reparations in concept, and more specifically, in the context of HR 40, the bill long-advocated by Congressional Black Caucus ‘Dean’ Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. HR 40 seeks : "To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes."

I read in media reports, at the time, that Senator Brownback was open to discussing his and the Republican Party’s support for HR 40. He even went so far as to present his specific ideas on race relations, the standing of the Republican Party on the subject, and initiatives it could launch regarding it, in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and in high-level closed door GOP political and legislative strategy meetings and sessions. His ideas and efforts were rejected by the Republican Party leadership at the time.

Months before this, I wrote a piece for private clients and later published it publicly for viewers called, "Republicans for Reparations" in which I explained why I believe that for all of the discussion regarding how the American Left is willing to go the furthest on the subject race relations, it will only be the American Right that this country’s electorate will trust to negotiate any reparations-like settlement between the United States government and Black America. I hope that you will read that analytical commentary, first written on August 29, 2002. It is archived at: I hope that you will see where Senator Sam Brownback and his potential candidacy for president could fit in the scenario I describe.

Your article’s headline about Sen. Sam Brownback, "My Soul Is A Work In Progress", and focus on his religious beliefs is appropriate, because I feel that for this gentleman from Kansas, his views and positioning on race relations might be shaped as much by political maneuvering and strategic chess playing as they are by deep personal introspection and reflection on his part. I was not surprised to learn that according to a spokesperson in his Senate office, Mr. Brownback’s views are shaped in part by his reading of John Dawson’s, Healing America’s Wounds, a book that deals with the historical dynamics of injustice and reconciliation between peoples from a spiritual perspective. According to one book review of Healing America’s Wounds, "Dawson's very readable book interweaves numerous examples of estranged people groups experiencing healing using the principles of confession, repentance, reconciliation, and restitution...Healing America's Wounds dwells extensively on the cold historical realities of racial injustices to African-American and Native American peoples with the yet lingering bitter dregs."

In that light, Senator Brownback’s Senate resolution, S.J. Res. 15, "To acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States," should come as no surprise. He introduced the joint resolution on April 19, 2005. He has introduced similar resolutions over the years.

I think your focus and breakdown of Senator Brownback’s possible candidacy in 2008 is prescient and insightful. But until that reporting includes the issue of race relations and the relevance it holds not only for Mr. Brownback’s life, as well as the subject of political realignment among Black voters, and his campaign strategy regarding that community; it will not be as captivating and important as it could be.

I kindly encourage you to write a follow-up piece that will more narrowly revolve around these factors.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if I can be helpful to you.


Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, June 6, 2005

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