By Stephon Johnson, Special to the NNPA from The Amsterdam News –
It’s been a trying year for the Democratic Party; a year when even its collective achievements have been dampened by public relations disasters. Despite Democrats’ fright at the thought of losing seats in Congress to the Republican Party, there are several groups that can help them sustain its power, if it can get them to the polls.
One of those groups: Black folks.
All over the country, Black voters have a chance to make a significant impact in major elections. From Senate races in Kentucky, Nevada, and Missouri to gubernatorial races in Georgia, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the Black vote could be the key to Democrats holding down the fort come November. But does that mean candidates, incumbents, and newcomers alike will alter their message to cater to Black voters?
“Tailor a message for Black voters? By and large, no,” said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “In part because the issue, with respect to Black voters, is going to be turnout, and the Republicans, they basically are viewed by African-Americans as the party of the people who opposed the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a party dominated by White southerners like Jim DeMint and African-Americans are never going to support anybody who represents the views of White southerners.”
In states like California, Blacks are only 7 percent of the population, but vote in the double-digits percentage wise in elections. With a desire to throw their weight around and continually test their political power, Blacks will have a huge effect on elections like the governor’s race between State Attorney General Jerry Brown and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. The buzz surrounding the campaign and Whitman’s alleged transgressions with undocumented workers are dwarfing Brown’s inability to tap into the mindset of Black voters and give them a reason to go to the polls.
Blacks will also play a key role in the Senate race in Nevada, with Harry Reid looking to maintain his seat against Sharron Angle. While vastly underreported, Las Vegas is a union stronghold and many Blacks in the state are union members. Despite being only 8.3 percent of the state’s population, Blacks can sometimes count for 10 percent of the voting turnout.
“Harry Reid knows that for every Black voter that turns out, it’s a plus for Reid,” said Bositis. “And he has a lot of money…enough money to send every Black voter in a limo with a chauffeur [to the polls].”
A lot of attention has been paid to the gubernatorial election in New York State because of Republican candidate Carl Paladino. Paladino, while kicking up dust and riling up feathers, has become a cult figure among New York State’s extreme right wing. According to recent polls by Quinnipiac University and Siena College, Paladino is still getting votes from many New Yorkers—albeit nowhere near as much as Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo.
“No, I don’t think that he has a chance of winning,” said Bositis when speaking of Paladino. “The thing is that this guy is not the kind of Republican who might be able to win in New York State. He’s not George Pataki, who was a reasonable person. Pataki wasn’t some nut. This guy is kind of a nut.”
In other words, Paladino doesn’t stand a chance with Black voters, but is Andrew Cuomo taking the Black for granted? Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins says no.
“He has a track record of accomplishment and support for issues important to the African-American community dating back to his days as the HUD secretary,” Dinkins said to the New York Daily News after a ceremony renaming a Brooklyn state office building after Shirley Chisholm. “I don’t think Andrew Cuomo is taking the Black vote for granted at all.” However, in the nation’s capital, one politician learned the hard way what happens to those who disregard the Black vote.
Some were shocked that Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty lost a re-election bid to City Council Chair Vincent Gray. Many believe that Fenty, who is Black, lost his election because of the perception that he left the Black vote behind in favor of gaining White voters. On National Public Radio last week, Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy stated as much.
“You can see the Capitol dome. You can see the Lincoln Memorial. You can see the Washington Monument. You can see all, all of the testimonies to freedom and justice and equality, and right now, it's as bad as I've ever seen it,” said Milloy when interviewed by Steve Inskeep. “He vowed to work to do something about that. What accompanied the change in character, and it was a stunning change, it happened almost overnight—he went from being a really nice guy to kind of a mean guy, arrogant guy, when it came to dealing with Black people.”
It would behoove candidates around the country to not ignore the Black vote any longer. They’re on the clock.
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