Clarence V. McKee's Perspective:
Regardless of the victor today, black voters are in deep political trouble.
Democrats will continue to take African-Americans for granted and ignore critical issues facing people of color if President Barack Obama manages a repeat of his 2008 black voter support.
|Audience members listen intently as Mitt Romney addresses a NAACP gathering.
If GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney wins, Republicans will step up efforts to attract non-Cuban-American Hispanics, youth, and women, at the expense of black voters.
GOP strategists who say outreach to blacks is a waste of time will have prevailed.
The efforts of Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr. (not to mention Jack Kemp) to attract more blacks to the base of the party could become history.
In either case, the power of blacks as a relevant voting block at the national level could be lost for years. The focus instead will be on Hispanics — the nation’s largest-growing ethnic voter group.
Black influence at the state and regional levels is just as ominous.
A July article in The New Orleans Times-Picayune sums it up: “Black political power vanishes across the South.”
The newspaper quotes David A. Bositis of the Joint Center for Political Studies.
“Black voters and elected officials have less influence now than at any time since the civil rights era,” according to Bositis. “Black state legislators, generally elected in black majority districts . . . are now almost entirely isolated in the minority. Republicans . . . dominate . . . statewide political offices in these states. Virtually all black elected officials in the region are outsiders looking in.”
How did it come to this?
Hispanics, Asians, and women do not put all their political eggs in the Democratic Party basket as blacks do. Therefore, they — like independents — are sought after by both parties.
Why are blacks in this precarious position after centuries of struggle and bloodshed? Some blame it on plain political stupidity.
William Reed, who is black, wrote in the Florida Courier that “the course Obama is on has caused blacks’ conditions to worsen over the past three years.”
Citing disproportionately poor employment rates and an increased need for federal assistance such as food stamps, he said that blacks “have accepted a level of leadership the majority of Americans see as subpar.”
On issues such as strengthening families, unemployment/economic empowerment, drug use, and incarceration, he said that Democrats are as “derelict as Republicans” and asked: “How dumb are we? Where are our demands for representation?”
Unlike Reed, much of the black political and civil rights establishments do not hold Obama accountable. Joined by black celebrities like Stevie Wonder and Morgan Freeman, and rappers Jay-Z and Pitbull, they are mobilizing blacks to repeat the 95-96 percent support they gave Obama in 2008.
But Oprah is nowhere to be seen!
Obama is doing his best to get crucial female, Hispanic, Jewish, white, and independent voters and has virtually ignored the black community.
He assumes his loyal shepherds will herd their black flocks into his corral, telling them to “Shake it off; Stop complaining; Stop grumbling; Stop cryin.”
Is there any hope?
It won’t take much of a crack in that 2008 black vote to doom Obama’s chances, especially when combined with expected defections from whites and independents.
A silent minority of blacks doesn’t want to be ignored and is expressing disenchantment.
One black woman and former Obama supporter lamented to an interviewer: “When is the last time he went to the ‘hood’ in Miami, Cleveland, or his hometown of Chicago? He caters to every group but us.”
In Ohio, Kenneth Price, a lifelong Democrat and ordained minister who supported Obama in 2008, reportedly said that Obama’s embracing same-sex marriage “was the last straw for me,” and expressed anger over Obama’s stance on abortion: “We've had 54 million babies murdered in this country.”
Former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is black, was quoted as saying that issues of marriage, life, and the high black unemployment rate "have fed discontent and provides an opportunity for swinging 6 percent.”
A coalition of black pastors has launched a national campaign to rally blacks against Obama because of his same-sex marriage stance. And, the rapidly growing black pro-life movement is critical of Obama’s support of abortion, including Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said “we need jobs, not abortions.”
The 14 percent black unemployment rate also has shaken the faith of many blacks as reflected in the question posed to Obama at the first debate by a black undecided voter.
"Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008,” the voter began. “What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012?”
So what can stop the slide to black political irrelevancy?
First, if only 5-8 percent of Obama’s 2008 black voters defect and put their pocketbooks, children, and religious principles before race and party, it would cause a political earthquake. Combined with expected white, Hispanic, and independent defections, there could be a tidal wave to send the president back to Chicago.
Second, if Romney wins, he should mention “inclusion” in his acceptance speech; abandon the GOP establishment's benign neglect of black Republicans and black voters; and, listen to advisers such as Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll; Congressman Allen West, R-Fla., and campaign strategist Tara Wall on how to reach out to his black supporters and increase their numbers.
This could signal real “hope and change” and be the “fresh start” Romney mentioned in Orlando this week.
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as the Reagan presidential campaigns, including Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation. He was also appointed chairman of the District of Columbia Reagan-Bush Campaign and he chaired the District of Columbia Delegation to the Republican National Convention in Dallas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more reports from Clarence V. McKee — Click Here Now.
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