From firstname.lastname@example.org Mon Feb 26 06:44:07 2001
Black voters get too little from Democratic Party
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe, 23 February 2001
IT WOULD BE great to see African-Americans throw a bucket of ice water on the Democratic Party.
I am not talking about dumping the contents and dashing to the Republicans, since that would be running from mere abandonment into mental abuse. It would be more like the parent who just demands a little more respect out of a child who refuses to get up out of bed. We still live in the same house, but it would sure be nice if ever so occasionally, you leap when we say jump.
If there was a time that African-Americans should reassert their value to the Democrats, it is now. We just finished giving Al Gore 90 percent of our votes. Contrary to some musings about a slavish black loyalty to the party, this was a rational decision once Bush campaigned at a racist college, refused to criticize the Confederate flag, and chose in Dick Cheney a running mate who once voted in the House against a resolution to call for the release of Nelson Mandela from jail in apartheid South Africa. No one saw Bush as clearly as the black folks he used to govern in Texas. African-Americans there gave Bush only 5 percent of their votes.
But in his subsequent effort to cover his flanks on racism, Bush still helps frame how the Democrats have taken black folks for granted. Bush named African-Americans Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser.
Whether these black people pursue policies more friendly to the Confederate wing of the Republican Party or to black people in general remains to be seen. We already know that Powell's support for affirmative action and a woman's right to choose has absolutely no impact on Republican policy. He will be even less influential offshore. Rice may already be on her way to being a figurehead for Cheney, a former defense secretary.
That said, the Republicans have still one-upped the Democrats, who probably have never given a thought to a black person running foreign affairs. The irony is that it is has been easier for Bush to promote his brand of black folks, with no fear of offending white voters, than it has been for the Democrats, who spend as much time weeding out black people they fear would offend conservative white suburbanites.
President Clinton had black secretaries of commerce, labor, agriculture, transportation, and energy, but he also spent considerable time dumping Lani Guinier, Joycelyn Elders, and Henry Foster. Clinton appointed far more black people to mid-level posts than Bush, but also punished the black poor with punitive welfare reform and by maintaining racist drug laws that continue to disproportionately throw black people into jail.
It cannot be forgotten that Clinton, while playing black ministers like a saxophone, originally elevated himself in the minds of white suburbanites in the 1992 race by humiliating Jesse Jackson and going home to Arkansas for the execution of a brain-damaged black man.
After nearly seven decades of overwhelming support for Democratic presidential candidates, no black candidate for even vice president is in remote sight. The party, in its own paternalism, has groomed no Powell or Rice. One of the most absurd examples of how black support was so taken for granted was when Al Gore picked Joseph Lieberman as his running mate. Lieberman, head of the Democratic Leadership Council, heretofore known as the Republicrats, had to spend serious time at the Democratic convention convincing black Democrats that he really did not mean it a few years ago when he said it was time to rethink affirmative action.
Already, the conservative Democrats are saying Gore lost the election because he was too populist. That is odd since Gore, who won the popular vote, might have won Florida with more of a populist demand to count all the questionable votes in predominantly black districts.
If conservative Democrats are already trying to bring the party even more to the right, it is time for black voters to dump the bucket on their heads. How and when the water is dumped is subject to ongoing discussion.
What is clear is that no group in American politics gets so little in return for their support than black folks. It has gotten to the point where, if we are too afraid to answer our icy bedfellows with an equally chilly response, we can rightfully be accused of a slavish, even stupid, loyalty to the Democrats.
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