Next week’s Florida presidential primary is a snap shot of how much both political parties disrespect black voters and the lack of black political sophistication.
Throughout the civil rights struggle, a main foundation of the black community has been the black press. The editors of the first newspaper produced by black Americans in 1827, the Freedom Journal, proclaimed: “Too long have others spoken for us . . . We wish to plead our own cause.”
Since that time, the black press, including black-owned papers in Florida, has pleaded the cause of and given voice to the struggles of black Americans.
Given Florida’s history of slavery, lynchings, segregation and the bombing death by the Klu Klux Klan of civil rights pioneer Harry Moore and his wife in 1951, one would think that Florida in 2016:
- Would be among the most sophisticated states on race and politics.
- That blacks, like other voter groups would have learned how to leverage their political power.
- And, that white candidates for statewide office would put the black press on their “must call” list.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In Florida, as in South Carolina and other states, blacks comprise a significant portion of the Democratic Party base and, unlike Hispanics and every other voter group, are taken for granted by Democrats and treated as invisible by Republicans.
The only time blacks have an opportunity to really leverage their power and extract commitments from their candidates is during Democratic primaries.
As we have seen, they can’t even do that!
In South Carolina, they gave Clinton an 86 percent landslide win and asked for and got nothing in return. The same in Florida.
She has the endorsement of nearly all black elected officials in the state.
What did black Democrats, who comprise 28 percent of Florida Democrats, ask and get for that support?
Did they say months ago that “we will endorse you but your campaign must give significant support and advertising to black owned media;” and, “you must have blacks in high level positions on your Florida team?”
It sure looks like such demands were never in play.
How did Clinton repay black Democrats? By virtually snubbing the state’s black owned newspapers — the pulse of the state’s black community!
There are fifteen black-owned newspapers in Florida, including one statewide, with at least one and in some cases two in every major media market. These papers reach nearly 80 percent of the state’s 1.6 million black voters including 1.2 million black Democrats.
I have been advised that a majority, and perhaps more, of the papers received a Clinton campaign ad just this week — the last week before the primary!
Many emphasized that it was a “one time small” ad.
This comes after weeks of campaigning by Clinton operatives including husband Bill in Miami Gardens, the largest majority black city in Florida.
Republicans on the other hand are an entirely different story — they did nothing!
As one black newspaper executive asked me: “where are the Republicans?”
The Florida GOP primary is winner take all and is crucial to all remaining candidates —especially Marco Rubio. A loss in his home state would most likely doom his campaign.
With polls showing him trailing Trump anywhere between 8 to 24 points, a few thousand-or even hundred — votes could make a difference — regardless of the color of the voter!
You would think that every GOP vote counted and would be sought by each candidate —specially Rubio and Cruz who have not shown any interest in seeking black votes or dealing with black issues.
There are over 57,000 black Republican and 234, 000 registered black independent voters in Florida. While the 1.2 million black Democrats are taken for granted as evidenced by the failure to respect and invest in black media in a meaningful way, Republican campaigns have consistently treated blacks as if they are non-existent.
Except for Trump, they are invisible on campaign staffs and their issues are rarely mentioned, if at all.
As much as both parties are to blame for the snubbing of the black press and black Democrats to blame for having no leverage, blacks in Florida have themselves to blame for being politically unsophisticated.
Unlike other voter groups, they put party ahead of their own economic interests.
While there are 57,000 black Republicans and 1.2 million black Democrats in the state, as noted above, Hispanics and Asians are more politically balanced: 478,827 Republicans and 677,569 Democrats and 56,780 Republicans and 66,498 Democrats respectively.
So, which voter group and whose media will get attention?
Some will argue, as has been the case with much of the Republican establishment and its donor base, that these numbers justify the lack of outreach to black voters and the black press.
But that does not make it right or politically astute in the long term given the changing demographics of the state and country.
We can blame Democrats and Republicans for snubbing and ignoring blacks, but until black voters in Florida and around the country get out of the bleachers and play on both political teams, they will be crying in the wind about being ignored for a long time.
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 in the Reagan presidential campaigns and has appeared on many national and local media outlets. Read more reports from Clarence V. McKee — Click Here Now.
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