For too long, Black America has let its political voice and power be taken for granted. For decades, the black vote in the United States almost uniformly has gone to Democrats.
How’s that working out? African-American unemployment is twice the national average, poverty rates are higher than before Democrats offered “help,” and the education system fails a disproportionate number of black children. That’s what 50-plus years of blind voting loyalty to Democrats has earned.
America’s recession may be over for the country as a whole, but many aren’t feeling the recovery. Black unemployment remains double than that for whites. The median income gap between white and black households has hit a record high. Blacks have half the access to health care as whites. The gap in homeownership is wider today than it was in 1990. African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to have suffered foreclosure.
Net wealth for black families dropped by 27.1 percent during the recession. One in 15 African-American men is incarcerated, compared with one in 106 white men. Blacks make up 38 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons. Although only 13.8 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans represent 27 percent of those living below the poverty line.
“It is illogical for us to continue to back just one party overwhelmingly as if black Americans were a monolithic group. We as a community have not reaped the gains that justify this level of blind loyalty to the Democratic Party. I am reminded of Janet Jackson’s song that asks, “What have you done for me lately?” It’s a simple question but one that Black Voters should be asking of Democrats,” Armstrong Williams wrote in the Washington Times on Sunday, April 17, 2016.
Black America’s monolithic loyalty to the Democratic Party does not empower Black People, however. If we are not “allowed” to entertain any political alternatives, we are left locked into a party that has not served our interests. Call it a kind of collective Stockholm Syndrome: The condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors, Aubrey Shines wrote for RealClearPolitics.com, June 14, 2018.
Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted, “Flint has voted for Dems for 84 straight yrs” and wanted to know, “What did it get us?” He’s actually on to something.
George Washington used his final public address as president to warn against what he understood as the two greatest dangers to American prosperity: political parties and foreign wars. Washington urged the American people to avoid political partisanship and entanglements with European wars.
In his Farewell Address in 1796, George Washington reflected on the destructive consequences of party politics and blind loyalty to any party.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge… is itself a frightful despotism… It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another.”
But let’s backtrack to Moore’s tweet. Flint is indeed a Democratic Party bastion. Don’t its decades of Democratic dominance deserve some of the blame? It’s the city’s “Democratic rulers,” Reason magazine’s Robby Soave reminds us, who have “robbed city residents blind to pad the pockets of public sector unions.”
They’ve also been in charge as Flint has become one the country’s poorest cities (the second poorest, says the Census Bureau, for a city of its size), and a haven for criminals — it’s the most dangerous city in America, according to Business Insider.
Flint is not alone, though. America is awash with troubled, dysfunctional cities that have been electing Democratic mayors for decades.
Detroit is also a pit of political corruption. Just in recent years, one mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was convicted of corruption and sent to federal prison for 28 years, while building inspectors have been indicted on federal felony bribery charges and a former city council member was investigated in a bribery and kickback scandal.
While the city of Mount Vernon has not had the same fate as Detroit when it comes to the drinking water, it too has been a pit of political corruption and decades of decline under blind Democratic loyalty. The point of this editorial is not to convince the reader to convert to the Republican Party but to vote for the best candidate in every choice on election day and not just vote Row A all the way, because candidates and the Dems tell you to out of some misguided loyalty to the party that has been taking your vote for granted and given you nothing in return.
In many Black Communities, it is popular to blame the White Man for all the ills of the community. Black in a mostly Black Democratic-run city like Mount Vernon it’s hard to point to the White Man or even Republicans for the decline in the city.
Many have understandably pointed to Trump as a reason not to vote for any candidate running on the Republican line, but not even the Concluder-In-Chief Donald Trump is to blame for the state of the City of Mount Vernon.
Just six years ago, this extra thumb in the eye to a loyal Democratic voting base would have been unthinkable, but Hispanics are the new dominant minority in American politics. In the future, the Black Vote is going to be less and less necessary to Democrats, which means they will be taken for granted even more than they have been. Loyalty in politics lasts only as long as the last election.
Democrats won’t immediately ignore Black Voters. It will be gradual. When loyalty is garnered so effortlessly, dismissing it out of hand is folly. But it will happen.
Democrats play identity politics – appealing to people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, income level—whatever you got works for them. If people are concerned that an “other” is out to harm them in some way, they’re extremely loyal to those who pretend to be their protector.
This disjointment, will either stop just in time for the revolution to begin or it will hinder us in our struggle. I hope this harsh but well-intentioned post will cause you to think, pause and ask yourselves, “What have Democrats delivered for black people?,” and “Is this what the ancestors died for?”
There was a time when black voters identified with and backed Republicans. Prior to the end of the 1940s, some Black Voters identified as Democrats but being Black and a Republican was the cultural norm. This was for many reasons, dating back to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and the fact that the overwhelming number of Blacks first elected to local, state and federal offices ran as Republicans. However, it was a trend that would not last forever.
Harry S. Truman laid the foundation for a great realignment, one that would forever change the political landscape. Truman made a direct pitch for the black vote, pushing for civil rights measures that included, as Philip Bump noted, “voter protections, a federal ban on lynching and bolstering existing civil rights laws.”
A second great impetus behind the great migration of Blacks to the Democratic Party was the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs, which many blacks at the time believed were necessary to address racial and economic inequality.
But 50 years and roughly $7 trillion into the War on Poverty, there haven’t been great improvements in the condition of black Americans. As Shermichael Singleton notes in The Hill,
“While the number of children living in poverty declined to 20 percent, or 14.7 million in 2013, for black children, the number remained a staggering 38 percent.”
Nearly half of all black children in the U.S. are still born into poverty. The black family has been all but decimated, and the economic recovery has been weakest for black families. Black unemployment rates remain the highest of any group at 9 percent as of March 2, with the average median income of a black household at $34,598 compared with $58,270 of the average white household. This is not what I call progress.
Again this is not to say all Democratic candidates are bad and don’t care about us but we need to make those we support, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Conservative or whatever other minor parties out there, we need to get something for our vote. We must realize the power of our vote and stop giving it away because of blind loyalty.
In closing I say, if political parties want the Black vote to be truly energized they must begin to address the interest of the black community not just by lip service but also through real comprehensive legislation.
And if Black people really want to be respected for their vote we must understand that our vote has a price and that’s legislation to ensure the future of our communities or after Obama, all will be lost and Black cities like Mount Vernon will never truly flourish no matter who sits in the Mayoral chair in City Hall. We have to stop looking for a savior in candidates running and elected officials and make the politicians give us what we want, what we need for our support! REAL TALK!
Originally published in the October 15, 2019, Pre-Election Edition of Black Westchester Newspaper.