For a time during President Reagan's first term, about 20 blacks either directly or indirectly had the ear of the president and helped shape administration policy. But so far in Reagan's second term, that has not been the case. Indeed, few blacks have access to the president.
What's worse, in the last few months, several key blacks have left the administration and others have contemplated doing so.
But most alarming, in the revamping currently under way, the administration has not appointed a black to a single policy-making job, a fact that has left many black Republicans feeling frustrated and standing on the outside, looking in. As one high-ranking black Republican, who asked not to be named, put it: "In five months there has not been a single black presidential appointee. It's a shame."
Another black Republican, who also asked to remain anonymous, described the mood among blacks serving in the administration as apprehensive and uncertain. "You have to keep your head low because you don't know where the shots are coming from. Blacks have fewer godfathers . . . so you're incredibly vulnerable. It's a bunker mentality!"
But the dearth of black appointees and the lack of access to the president are only two of the problems besieging black Republicans. Possibly because black Republicans have received no clear signals from the White House, many feel insecure, and that insecurity, in some cases, has bred intraparty squabbles among them.
"It is unfortunate," said Clarence McKee, who headed the District's Reagan-Bush campaign, "that many black Republicans spend their time doing end runs around other blacks. They are ineffective because they spend so much time in petty jealousies and rivalries."
By ineffective, McKee just might be alluding to the fact that the primary mission of black Republicans -- to pull blacks from the Democratic Party -- is one in which they have been failing, judging by the fact that 90 percent of the black vote in the last election went to Mondale. "There is too much concern over grants and contracts as against bringing more younger blacks into the party," added McKee.
Armstrong Williams, an aide to Clarence Thomas, the powerful chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, agreed with McKee, saying, "I firmly believe that if we had more strong blacks in this administration who really stood for something instead of falling for anything, it would make a difference." Added Williams: "It's not Ronald Reagan's fault, it is the black Republicans' fault. Personally, I like Ronald Reagan."
Some critics have speculated that many black Republicans do not want to attract other blacks because it could jeopardize their unique power bases.
Whatever the truth of the matter, Legree Daniels, cochairwoman of the National Black Republican Council, announced that she was resigning a couple of days ago, citing frustration over the GOP's relationship with blacks as one of the reasons. Daniels also said she has been disappointed in the actions of Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, who has severely criticized black leaders.
What is really disturbing about the Reagan administration's treatment of black Republicans and failure to appoint any black to a key policy advisory position, with access to the Oval Office, is that it belies our democratic ideas as a nation and thereby does a disservice to both blacks and whites.
It also tells the black Republicans who have been serving their party faithfully that the blacks who supported Mondale were right about the Reagan administration's aims.
Meanwhile, the Reagan administration's blatant indifference toward black Republicans, coupled with the Democratic Party's waning enthusiasm for black voters, has forced many black voters to simply throw up their hands, while driving others into the arms of the controversial Muslim leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, who looks askance at both parties.
The question remains, will Reagan appoint blacks to his administration, particularly those who have served him, or will black Republicans be forced to enter voting booths in 1988 with egg on their faces?