In my last article I posed the question of whether Black voters should rescue the Democrats again in the critical mid-term elections on Nov. 2. It is clear that the Democrats are in serious danger of losing control of the House and Senate. Therefore, once again the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is frantically reaching out to Black voters to ride to the rescue. I complained about the fact that the Democrats need the Black vote, but have yet to put up the resources necessary for organizations in our community to do the job. As fate would have it, I had an opportunity to guest host for Warren Ballentine the same week my article hit, and most of the show was devoted to callers responding to the question of whether we should rescue the Democrats. There was a range of opinions but, most people seemed to understand what one caller articulated incisively. She said, "We're not voting to rescue the Democrats, we're voting to rescue ourselves."
In a nutshell, the caller captured why Black voters should march on ballot boxes in massive numbers to cast what will be the decisive ballots in scores of crucial races on Nov. 2. Yes, I am frustrated and angry with the paternalistic attitude of the DNC and disappointed that President Obama has not had the courage to be more forthright in targeting policies to address the state of emergency in Black America. My last article was intended to "fire a shot across the bow" of the DNC and the White House to make them aware of the dissatisfaction among some leaders and constituencies in Black America. However, I am politically mature and secure enough to understand that it is absolutely not in our best interest to allow our frustration and disappointment to lead to a state of apathy and inaction that cedes the election to our arch adversaries. We have our problems with the Democrats but let us be clear, the "Tea Party Patriots," rabid rightwing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the Fox News reactionaries, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, and the radical conservatives are not our friends. They are our enemies, and their policy agenda is not only detrimental to Black interests, it is antithetical to the interests of poor and working people, the middle class, women, people of color nationalities, immigrants and lesbian and gay people. The rightwing reactionaries are threatened by the "browning of America," fearing that it will undermine their notion of the "cherished American way of life" - which are code words for the good old days of Euro-centric ethnic and cultural dominance. They want to turn the clock back, but we must make it clear that we are not going back!
While I retain the right to critique President Obama's performance like any other President, particularly as it relates to the interest and aspirations of Black people, it is clear to me that his vision and agenda for America is vastly different than that of disparate and dangerous elements within the Grand Obstructionist Party (GOP). Though I may disagree with some of his tactics and compromises, his goal of achieving universal health care was correct. And, even with a flawed bill, he accomplished what no other President has been able to achieve in the past 100 years - at least provide access to affordable health insurance for some 30 million people. His vision for a "green economy" to lessen the dependence on fossil fuels, mitigate global warming, and create millions of good paying jobs is cutting edge and exemplary. The financial regulatory reform legislation, which includes the new Consumer Protection Agency, will not go as far as I like (most of his initiatives do not), but it is better than leaving the bandits on Wall Street totally unchecked. There is also the prospect of passing some version of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would help even the playing field for workers attempting to organize unions in the face of recalcitrant corporations. While not specifically targeted to Blacks, all of these measures benefit Black people. And, they are measures which the obstructionist party vehemently opposes.
The Obama administration also pressed for the elimination of disparities in sentencing between powdered Cocaine, which is widely used by Whites and crack Cocaine which is more prevalent in Black communities. The disparities in sentencing has had a devastating effect on the Black community in terms of sending thousands of mostly young Black men to prison for possession of relatively small quantities of crack Cocaine while their White counterparts received a slap on the wrist for possession of the same amount of powdered cocaine. After years of strenuous advocacy and lobbying by civil rights/human rights organizations, legislation was recently passed at the behest of the White House which dramatically narrows the disparities in sentencing. This will have a direct, positive impact on the Black community. Moreover, President Obama has restored cuts to historically Black colleges and universities, and his Office of Urban Affairs has initiated some innovative programs that will benefit Black communities.
These policies notwithstanding, it is imperative that we continue to pressure his administration to target jobs and other economic programs to address the staggering levels of unemployment and joblessness in the Black community. The bottom line is we cannot count on Obama to move our agenda because he's Black. Like any other President, it is our duty/responsibility to unapologetically advance an agenda that will promote and protect Black interests. However, we must never make the mistake of" jumping out of the frying pan into the fire" when it is clear that our adversaries are determined to reverse the progress we have made with blood and sacrifice. We must not sit idly by and permit our enemies to undo our hard won progress.
So, whether the DNC coughs up the resources or not, we must do as we have always done, utilize our own creativity and marshal the resolve to protect and advance our interests. This is the message Melanie Campbell has been delivering to the Unity Coalition, convened to educate and mobilize Blacks in key States to understand what's at stake in the Mid-term elections. Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton are both in motion using their influence to motivate Black voters to march on ballot boxes Nov. 2 with the objective of aiding the Democrats to maintain control of the House and Senate. Moreover, the successful One Nation Working Together Rally in Washington, D.C. should galvanize the entire progressive movement to counter and turn back the reactionary tide of Tea Party Patriots and radical conservatives who hope to be swept into power Nov. 2.
We may be frustrated and disappointed, but we're not stupid. Let's march on ballot boxes, not to rescue the Democrats per se, but because they are the best vehicle to protect our interests and aspirations at the moment. Ultimately Africans in America and progressives still need to build something akin to the Rainbow Coalition or the Freedom Party which is emerging in New York State as a more potent force for fundamental change. But, until we have achieved that goal, we must defend against the ferocious onslaught of the rabid right. We must march on ballot boxes in massive numbers Nov. 2, 2010!
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York.