Political Alignment Vs. Political Viability

Observation: I wrote this essay in 2000 and sadly with a little editing, it is as relevant today as it was then. There is an essay on the blog, Independent Thought, that speaks on the same thing. Though I consider myself a liberal Democrat, I am open to the idea of detaching that label from my political philosophy for the sake of political viability within the black community.

At the start of every election cycle, we find ourselves bombarded by televisions ads citing the contributions of the candidates. The commercials champion the policies of the candidates, suggesting that giving them your vote is a vote for the "true" American way of life. The underlying theme in those ads, if you pay attention, is which political party do you trust to handle the nation's business.

Democrats point out how the mean, racist, homophobic, Republican party wants to take away money from the poor and give it to rich business leaders. The Republicans counter with venom of the Democrats tax and spend policies and their control over the liberal media that advocates violence and the killing of unborn children.

If you have ever paid attention to the political process, you are familiar with these tactics and sound bites. You have probably figured out how to tune them out as well. However, we in the black community are in a particularly sensitive situation because we are a small minority of the voting public yet, our community is subject to public policy to the same extent as the white community. So, for whom shall we vote? Better yet, which political party has our best interest in mind?

African-Americans, by in large, vote for Democratic candidates. Our perception is that we have a voice in the Democratic Party. Some arguments state that the policies of the Democratic Party perpetuate the dependency on the government by minorities. In some instances, this may be the case.

We now find the likes of Armstrong Williams and Thomas Sowell toting the banner of inclusion in the Republican Party. "The Party of Lincoln believes that you [shiftless black folks] can succeed with less government, less taxes, and school vouchers". This may not be a false statement, it is not completely true either, but it comes from the mouths of men perceived as the enemy of the black community. Therefore, we maintain our alliance with the Democrats, while some navigate to the other side in their desire to feel accepted by "good, God fearing, law abiding, patriotic, white folks".

The problem with African-Americans alignment with any political party is this. Aligning ourselves with Democrats has not meant a windfall of economic opportunity, nor has it brought economic development to our communities. African-American children are still more likely to live in poverty, serve prison time, and be victims of crime. After 30 years of Civil Rights Laws, we still find ourselves having to justify why a Confederate flag is offensive to the people in our community.

Running to the Republic Party, as some have done, is not the answer either. In the past twenty-five years, this party has done everything in its power to weaken Civil Right Laws. They create laws that warehouses our young black men in the penal system, systematically destroy equality programs, and outright ignore the needs that are particular to our community. Switching to the Republican Party is like leaving one plantation for the other.

It is time that the African-American community seek political viability rather than align itself with any particular political party. We must remove our whispers from the Democratic Party and muffled mouths from the Republican Party. Regardless of our educational level, social status or ideology, as black people, we must have a voice loud enough to be heard, strong enough to be felt, and united enough to make a difference.

This is done by not buying into the platform of any party, but by setting the agenda and priorities of our own community and lifting candidates that will represent those ideas. Our vote must become strong enough to influence the outcomes of political races at all levels. It is inconceivable that a candidate in a senatorial race in Illinois, New York, or anywhere with a large black population can ignore the black community and still win office.

It is time we made candidates come to us and force them to deal with the issues that plague our community. By encouraging our people to vote and disassociating ourselves with either political party, we can build up our own political candidates that will bring our needs to the table and fight for them.

We must also clarify those problems that legislation can solve and those problems that we as a unified community must solve. Also, it is time to bring the wayward flock home. Black elitist, black separatist, black Republicans. Those who hate Rev. Jesse Jackson and Minister Farrakhan; young folks that don't vote, old folks that don't vote, so-called black conservatives and the likes of (with reluctance I say) Armstrong Williams. All must come to the table to build a coalition of unity.

Without the ability to influence elections, thus, influence legislation, we will continue in our role as silent partners to our own demise. We will never have a voice to engage the opposition. Others will continue to ignore our plight without fear of retribution. Finally, out of frustration and apathy, we will delegate ourselves to the wall, realizing that the political party is the only place where we… cannot dance.


2 Responses to Political Alignment Vs. Political Viability

  1. Dell Gines Says:
    Good stuff and I agree. It seems we as blacks refuse to evaluate our political choices based upon results as opposed to promises. Its killings us.

    By the way, when you say liberal democrat, what do you mean by that?
  2. James Manning Says:

    I think at some point I will have to define what I mean. For the most part, my political philosophy falls on the liberal side of the political fence and I am a registered democrat. But I think it is important to clarify that and I will in a post.