Politically, It’s Time for the Next Level

Published November 16, 2004

The presidential election is finally over and the Republicans have won the White House, including the popular and the electoral vote, increasing their numbers in both houses of Congress. Republicans are happy.

Meanwhile, the media is taking turns asking questions. “How did Bush win? What’s happening to the Democratic Party nationally? Has the country moved from the left to center-right?” Now, while I am not one who believes God voted Republican on November 2 any more than he voted for Democrats the 50 years before Ronald Reagan, I do believe morality and religion played a major role in the 2004 presidential election as it did during the Civil War, and in the 1960s. Some may have underestimated that role, which influenced many within the Black community. As an economic major, I call it the “invisible hand.”

Unfortunately, I am not seeing much positive data about the contributions of Blacks in the 2004 elections. Nor what role, if any, they will they play in the future or in the presidential elections of 2008. On the other hand, an obsolete Black leadership led the Black community down a path of political defeat, while bragging about a voter increase. It is as if Blacks can only look to Washington when a Democrat is in the White House.

For the past 50 years, Blacks have been one of the most loyal, taken-for-granted, hind legs of the national Democratic Party. Yet Blacks played a lesser role in this election than they did in the Gore defeat. It is sad when we remember that so many did so much, including loss of life, to bring forth the 1965 Voting Rights Act, to have used it only in the Democratic Party. This is not an argument about whose “white folks” are the “best white folks” in America, Democrats or Republicans, but whether the Black community as a whole or providing personal gain for a few.

Black leadership seems to be stuck in the “follow the crowd” mode. Fortunately, I don’t think Senator-elect Barack Obama will follow-the-crowd as the third Black U.S. Senator since Reconstruction, and I pray for his success. Obama will not be the only minority going to the U.S. Senate.

The New York Times, a Kerry supporter, recently had a front page story that supports my charge of obsolete leadership in a time of radical ethnic change. “Hispanic Voters Declare Their Independence,” the headline read. While Kerry ran Spanish television ads throughout Hispanic communities, Hispanics gave President Bush 44 percent of their vote. This was the largest percentage candidate in the past 30 years. The 2004 election “has taken Hispanic voters a giant leap away from being thought of as separate and different.” The fact of the matter is that Blacks now own the dubious distinction as the only group in America that’s being viewed as taken-for-granted when it comes to national politics if a Republican is on the ticket.

Having a Hispanic senator from Colorado and Florida now truly makes the Hispanic vote a real swing vote in national elections, and you will see the same in many local elections. Success breeds success. “We are up for grabs,” said political science professor Chris Garcia at the University of New Mexico. “That is a good thing for Hispanics–we’re going to be more influential in the future and a bigger target for both campaigns.”

The good news is that having a young conservative-leaning representative in young Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee, and a moderate young senator from Illinois, represents a new leadership beyond the battles of the 1960s and on the next level of political leadership.

Lee H. Walker [email protected] is a columnist and member of the Chicago Defender’s editorial board. He is president of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change and is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.