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By David Podvin
Recent generic surveys show that the Democrats are leading the race for
Congress by five to ten percent. On the surface, this would appear to be good
news for those Americans who do not believe that God is a member of the John
Birch Society. However, the seemingly positive poll numbers are fool’s gold.
An ominous phenomenon that reared its ugly head during the G.O.P. sweep of
1994 appears to have returned. In that year, when Newt Gingrich and the cave
dwellers gained power, the decisive factor was not level of support. It was
intensity of support. Simply put, the folks who want to pass laws sanctifying
fetuses voted, while those who want to pass laws providing health care to
children stayed home.
The Battleground 2002 poll released Tuesday reveals that the African American
foundation of the Democratic Party base has little enthusiasm for the midterm
elections. By contrast, the Religious Right is all sexed up and anxious to
goosestep to the polls in a show of gratitude to their leaders for slashing
civil liberties and tearing away at the social safety net. As in 1994, the
intensity of support among the major parties’ respective core supporters
favors the Republicans.
It is a remarkable turnaround. Less than two years ago, blacks were
determined to show George W. Bush what they thought of his behavior in the
Florida debacle. They had witnessed the former Texas governor steal the
presidency by disenfranchising black Floridians. There was enthusiastic talk
among black leaders that the elections in 2002 would provide the opportunity to
pay back Mr. Bush and his party of segregationists.
So what happened? The Democratic Party happened.
In 2000, African American voters came through for the Democrats with a
powerful performance. Record numbers of blacks streamed to polls across the
country, providing the margin of victory for many Democratic candidates. One of
those candidates, presidential nominee Al Gore, received more than nine out of
every ten black votes.
Mr. Gore showed his gratitude by betraying his most loyal voters. He allowed
George W. Bush and the Republicans to steal the election. As the conservatives
illegally disqualified tens of thousands of lawfully registered black
Floridians, Gore failed to support the African Americans who had supported him.
He passively allowed black voters to be excluded, even though doing so cost him
the presidency. This reportedly happened because he did not want the Washington
establishment, for which he has always shown unrequited love, to accuse him of
playing the “race card”.
Gore and the Democrats then rubbed salt in the wounds. As he presided over
the official certification of the election, Gore laughed when right wing
senators heckled members of the Congressional Black Caucus. African American
congressmen desperately tried in vain to get just one Democratic senator to
second their challenge to the electoral fraud. Meanwhile, their presidential
candidate cracked wise with the people who had helped to prevent black citizens
from voting. It might have been the most disgusting display of disloyalty in the
history of American politics.
Since that day, the Congressional Democrats have done nothing to make things
right by their black constituents. There has been no justice or retribution.
Nothing has been done to insure that conservatives won’t continue with the Jim
W. Crow election tactics that have served them so well for so long.
Blacks have been raped twice – first by their real enemies, then by their
phony friends. The Democrats’ collapse as a viable opposition party has landed
like a ton of bricks on African Americans, who are disproportionately vulnerable
to an assault by unregulated profiteers. The Bush economic program takes money
from the black community and transfers it to the wealthy. The Bush environmental
policy uses black neighborhoods as dumping grounds for toxic waste. The Bush
judicial policy features appointing judges who lighten the sentences of cross
burning terrorists. It goes on ad nauseum; the conservative agenda is poison for
the people who comprise the backbone of the Democratic Party.
Having neglected countless opportunities to show genuine concern for the well
being of their black supporters, the Democrats had better start faking it.
Unless African Americans are motivated to enthusiastically support the
Democratic Party, liberal turnout will decline. Democrats have yet to
provide blacks with an irresistible reason to vote again for people who treat
them like shit.
The prospect of a more conservative Supreme Court overturning the 1964 Civil
Rights Act would tempt even disillusioned African Americans to vote in
self-defense. Yet where is the evidence that a reelected Senate Democratic
majority would have the courage to stop Bush from packing the court with
extremists? At some point, Democrats will have to actually do something tangible
to earn black support. The polls indicate that point might already have been
The cynical case made by the Democratic Leadership Council is that taking the
black vote for granted didn’t stop African Americans from turning out in huge
numbers to support Gore. It is argued that the Democrats should therefore
concentrate on winning the white suburban swing vote, confident in the knowledge
that blacks have no where else to go.
The trouble with that line of reasoning is that blacks don’t have to go
anywhere. They can manifest their disgust by just staying home in November. That
is what happened when Democrats went into retreat before the 1994 elections.
Those who are counting on the historical tendency for the party in power to lose
seats in an off year election could be in for a cruel surprise. Every poll
indicates that if Bush and the troglodytes in Congress just continue to show
unrelenting contempt for the average American, the Republican voter base will
euphorically rush en masse to reward them.
Despite the siren song of a generic lead in the polls, the Democrats must
find a way to motivate their most loyal supporters. The Senate Democrats should
start by taking a page from the G.O.P. judicial nominee handbook. They should
shut down the Senate until every county in America is provided with state of the
art voting equipment. They should fund a team of federal election observers to
prevent fraud. They should take a stand to defend African Americans from being
screwed out of participating in this democracy.
It is the right thing to do. It will at least give the appearance that the
Democrats care about their voters. It will benefit the country and the
Democratic Party. The Republicans will scream that they are being persecuted,
which will be true, because they can’t win without cheating.
The Democrats should welcome a debate in which their opponents argue
against the principle of universal suffrage.
Insuring that all legally qualified voters have their ballots counted should
be the highest priority in a democracy, even higher than confirming white
supremacists to federal judgeships. When Antonin Scalia states that Americans
lack the right to have their votes counted, he is not referring to pleasingly
peach colored Republican Americans.
It is time for the Democratic Party to finally take a stand.
The Democrats better not try to sit on their irrelevant lead in the polls, or
their most faithful constituency will repay betrayal with apathy. Prior to
the election, the Democratic Party must redeem itself with
African Americans by doing something more than merely citing the wickedness
of Republicans. You can only cynically manipulate people so many times before
the tactic loses its charm. The Florida election heist was a traumatic event for
blacks. Polls indicate diminishing enthusiasm on their part for participating in
a system where one side attacks them while the other side fails to defend them.
That is great news for Republicans. The Democratic Party has just a few months left to convince African Americans that voting is not an exercise in futility. If the Democrats fail to make a compelling case that they are finally ready to fight for their voters, then the G.O.P. will regain total control of Congress in November.
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