The first thing we’d learn is if a candidate can speak across the divide. Almost all GOP candidates are claiming that they could solve Washington’s political mess by bringing people together. A central attribute required for that—whether its uniting the religious and secular, poor and wealthy, or conservatives and liberals—is being able to speak to two different constituencies, demonstrating that you understand the frustrations of each side and using that understanding to build a tentative path to progress. Here’s a chance to show some of those skills. The bar is low and achievable. No one expects a candidate to have the solutions, he simply needs to show he is sensitive to the challenge.
Such a speech could eclipse whatever President Obama says on a visit to Ferguson.
For some candidates—particularly the governors—such remarks would be a special opportunity to show what they’ve learned in office about race relations. Govs. Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, have governed states with large black populations in some cities. Surely they can draw on that experience. Walker was Milwaukee County executive in a county with a 26 percent black population. Christie was a federal prosecutor, which gives him special insight.