Out of curiosity, TOC recently attended a Voter Education event at a local church. Of course, since the church has a mostly black membership, the event was more catered to community activism around getting out the vote. Even though it was fairly clear from the conversation that most participants supported Democrats, no lines involving disallowed endorsements of candidates were crossed.
Because of the non-profit status of the church, this particular forum was not appropriate for discussing policy positions of candidates; however, a broader question should be raised. While there are many organizations working to make sure certain populations (the elderly, the poor, the young) go out and vote in the black community, how many organizations are working to make sure blacks are engaged with the issues to the point they can make an educated voting decision? Another question is how do these same people who give their vote get to the position to hold politicians accountable? With all of the ‘get out the vote’ groups working to do just that along with other civil rights groups fighting voter ‘suppression’ laws, I wonder which of these groups are arming their target communities so that they can charge politicians with expectations and hold them accountable. TOC has yet to hear that story.
Perhaps these groups expect blacks to vote for Obama because he is black or because the GOP is “racist”. Sadly, just voting for these reasons will not increase the percentage of black males that graduate from high school (less than 50%) or change the fact that one in three black males aged 20-29 are under some form of criminal supervision (per Wikipedia), or change the trajectory of the incredibly high murder rates in Chicago and New Orleans. (Besides, if Obama had a plan to address these issues that disproportionately affect blacks, it seems he would have laid such plans out at the NAACP annual convention this summer. He skipped it, but I digress).
If the left wants to drive voter participation, it is for nothing more than the left’s political gain unless these voters are empowered to demand something for their vote. Similar to what was discussed in Part I (what good is having political power when I do not have the economic empowerment to participate in this economy) it does me no good to have the political power of a vote when I do not have the tools of knowledge to ensure my vote will be good for me. All I am doing is giving a blind vote to whatever political organization decided to convince me to vote, helped me fill out the voter registration card, or offered me a ride in the first place. Why else would they work to get me to vote? Blacks vote for Democrats “just because” (TOC still wishes someone would explain what the “because” is), but that does not turn into specific gains for blacks. Since LBJ’s war on poverty the country’s poverty rate – which disproportionately affects blacks – has seen little improvement. TOC has his own theories on why. Some argue it is due to plantation politics. Regardless of intent, Democrats have held the White House or some branch of congress for all 21 congressional sessions since 1969 except 3, yet the poverty rate since 1969 has varied little. Even worse, Democrats controlled everything in Washington from January 2009 until January 2011, but only passed an entitlement-ridden stimulus and a health care bill they cannot get away from fast enough. Black youth unemployment is as high as 35%. How does that increase black empowerment? How does that close the wealth gap? The health gap? The education gap? Is anyone planning to hold Democrats accountable in November?
The even more important question is how do we – en masse – make sure Democrats are fighting to close these gaps if they want our votes?
As a conservative, my personal belief is that Democrats cannot earn our votes, so they use Ebonics, race baiting and Obama’s blackness. The other side of the coin is, what do we, as black conservatives, do to explain how conservatism can make things better for the black community. We know the answer but it is far harder to explain to someone suffering through poverty that economic freedom is better for them and their kids IN THE LONG RUN than economic dependence. We have to take that charge.
Someday, get out the vote drives need to be good for more than the political strategy of helping manipulative democrats. That would be good for all of us in the LONG RUN. Perhaps then, getting out the vote drives will be just as beneficial for the GOP as for the Democrats. That would be a sign that someone in Washington would finally have to actually care.