Tell me if you have heard the following statement: It doesn't matter who I vote for, or even if I vote, because nothing is going to change. OK, try this one: The Republicans and Democrats are bought and paid for by the same people.
Statements like these have been repeated so often that they have created their own belief system. They are the rationale for not voting and not caring about what happens. This belief, like so many others, has become its own reward because a low voter turnout means that nothing else is going to change.
This mentality is multifaceted and manifests itself in various ways. One of those ways is the concept that Black people should look at both parties and see what each one has to offer. The father of former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (the only Black Republican of his day) said it best when he said, "A Black person voting for a Republican was like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders."
I agree with that one wholeheartedly except for one point — the chicken's brain is about the size of a marble. What's your excuse?
When you think about it, the KFC relationship with the chicken is actually very similar to the Republican relationship with Black America. A chicken can be consumed after it has been baked, broiled, boiled, etc. Blacks are being consumed by racial profiling and by a minimum wage that does not rise as inflation rises.
Blacks are consumed by artificial housing shortages generated by the broken, false promises of the 1960s and '70s urban renewal programs, which initiated the wholesale destruction of housing in hundreds of Black neighborhoods across the country. And Blacks are consumed by the too-little, too-late Katrinacide of Black America.
With so much going on in our country, it is not less important that we vote; on the contrary — it is more important that we vote! It is equally important that we understand that we must vote for those who vote for us.
On July 13, the U.S. House of Representatives renewed the 1965 Voting Rights Act by a vote of 390 to 33. The 33 opposed votes came from the Republican Party.
If you are at all shocked by this, you need to wake up and smell more than just coffee. I watched part of the proceedings on C-Span and once again, White politicians from the South stood and gave their reasons for America to not have a Voting Rights Act.
The faces from the 1960s may have changed, but the rhetoric remains the same. There was, however, one particular change in the faces that I saw that I found quite reassuring — this time the Voting Rights Act also was being championed by a sizeable number of Black politicians under the umbrella of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The caucus is approximately 10 percent of the House, and it is for this reason that I felt privileged to speak to Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., the caucus chair. He widened my views about Democrats and Black America. He pointed out that the Voting Rights Act was just one of the many good examples of the differences between the two parties. He named education, health care, housing and Medicaid, and said, "It's about spending priorities."
We also talked about the priorities of the executive branch. He lamented the fact that Republicans couldn't find money for things like health care and housing, but President George W. Bush could lead the fight for tax breaks for the rich, even as the deficit skyrocketed.
My father was the first person to point out to me that the difference between the two parties was that the Republicans spend our money from the top down, and the Democrats spend our nation's money from the bottom up.
President Ronald Reagan confirmed my father's wisdom many years later, with what he called "the trickle-down effect." Interestingly enough, people like Reagan, Sen. Jesse Helms and Sen. Strom Thurmond were all Democrats at one time.
They, like so many dozens, of other prominent White Democrats, left the party as the civil rights movement progressed. Over and over again, whether we are talking about spending priorities, civil liberties or the fact that not one Democrat voted against the Voting Rights Act, the choice seems to be crystal clear.
Samuel Justiss Vance is a columnist for www.blacknews.com.