Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Black Voters Declaring Independence

New York Sun
October 4, 2005 Edition
Black Voters Declaring Independence

"Crime - I'm conservative. Prostitution - I'm liberal," says the reigning King of Comedy, Chris Rock. The libertarian-sounding riff received rounds of laughter and applause from the audience recorded for his recent HBO special, but it hits on a deeper trend whose ripples could build up to rock underlying assumptions about American politics. African-Americans are de-aligning from the Democratic Party, but Republicans have so far failed to pick them up in significant numbers. The result is a shift that could increase the influence of, and competition for, African-American votes, while swelling the rising tide of independent voters across the nation.

Until recently one of the truisms of American politics that blacks were the most dependable constituency of any party in America, with over 90% of their votes going to Democratic candidates. This trend began when the FDR New Deal coalition reached out to the dispossessed during the Great Depression and claimed the allegiance of many blacks from the Party of Lincoln.

This was compounded during the 1960s when the Republican Party embraced the philosophy of states rights, leading Barry Goldwater to win 87% of the vote in Mississippi while Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society civil rights legislation won a nationwide landslide victory. When Ronald Reagan chose to symbolically kick off his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss. - where, coincidentally or not, the CORE trinity of Cheney, Schwerner, and Goodman were murdered by the KKK - these perceptions were highlighted in a way that the substantive elevation of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice has not yet been able to eliminate.

But something has been happening in the African-American community. Just as the Reverend Al Sharpton hasn't gotten the memo that there is no position titled "Leader of Black America" available anymore, the diversification of the black community economically and politically is changing the landscape. One recent sign of this is the surprising amount of support for Mayor Bloomberg among African-American voters. In a city where local elections have too long been defined by ethnic algebra, Republicans have had a hard time winning over black voters. But Mr. Bloomberg has made an appeal to African-Americans a cornerstone of his re-election bid, while straining to show his independence from the national Republican Party. A recent WNBC/Marist poll showed the mayor receiving 50% support from black voters in a race against Fernando Ferrer with the election five weeks away.

Rev. Sharpton's endorsement of Mr. Ferrer has so far failed to shift that balance, and while the mayor's mistaken decision to not attend a debate at the Apollo Theater in Harlem this Thursday may somewhat impact his support, the break in the often-invoked "coalition of color" in favor of a Republican mayor is extraordinary. It has also been fueled by the New York Independence Party's enthusiastic campaigning for Mr. Bloomberg among the African-American community with a voter push titled "Bloomberg on C," offering people the chance to re-elect the mayor without pulling the Republican lever. There is evidence that this trend is not limited to Mr. Bloomberg. In St. Petersburg, Fla., the conservative Republican mayor, Rick Baker - a close ally of the governor, Jeb Bush - is cruising to re-election with an unlikely 85% support among African-American voters in a city that had been deeply divided by race. The reason? Mr. Baker spent serious time and effort rebuilding a previously ignored center of the city, now know as Midtown. A national analysis of shifts in the black community shows that the move away from the Democratic Party and towards political independence is strongest among young African- American voters. According to a paper titled "The Political Orientations of Young African Americans" by David A. Bositis published in the journal Soul, this year, underwritten by the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University, one quarter of African American voters under the age of 35 now identify as political independents, in contrast to 10% of senior citizens. The growing trend is broad as well as deep - in 1998 only 5% of African-American voters between the age of 51 and 64 identified as independents, but by 2002 that number increased fourfold to 21%.

This analysis shows that 25% of young black voters are self-described conservatives, while 31% are moderates. On education policy, 66% support school vouchers for public, private or parochial school - a major point of policy difference between the Republican and Democratic Party - while nearly 80% favor partial privatization of Social Security. This is in sharp contrast to African-American elected officials in particular, of whom 70% over the age of 40 oppose school vouchers.

This growing disconnect between the liberal African-American political establishment and young voters should cause serious concern among Democratic Party power brokers. The national spokesman for the Congress On Racial Equality, Niger Innis, believes that "the trend of younger black voters moving away from the plantation to the independent line, if not the Republican Party, is reflective of a moderation of tone, a movement away from the traditional left wing."

"That momentum scares the beejezus out of the establishment left-wing black leadership," Mr. Innis continues. "That's why they're getting more caustic and extreme with their language, because they want to stroke paranoia among the black community so that nothing changes." This, in turn, only fuels the generational divide which is evident when you compare younger African-American elected leaders such as Rep. Harold Ford Jr. to a former Black Panther such as Rep. Bobby Rush, or Senator Obama of Illinois to Jesse Jackson.

A realignment is under way: The question is whether the Republican Party can convincingly reach out to African-American voters, or whether further de-alignment toward independents will occur in this absence. In any case, it is a healthy sign of a nation that is slowly evolving past crippling left/right, black/white limitations and toward a fundamentally freer time when an individual's political beliefs are assumed to be more than skin deep.

John P. Avlon is a columnist and associate editor of the New York Sun, former chief speechwriter for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and author of the new book Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics (Random House, 2005). Contact him at javlon@nysun.com and visit his website http://www.independentnation.org/

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

In New York, Fringe Politics in Mainstream

May 28, 2005


More than a decade ago, when Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani embraced Marxist ideology, they could not persuade even the Rev. Al Sharpton to run under the banner of their fringe political party in his 1992 Senate bid.

Mr. Sharpton, seeking to gain legitimacy as a candidate, began distancing himself from the two and from their New Alliance Party, as questions about his past association with them threatened to undermine his campaign and his credibility.

But in recent years, Dr. Fulani and Dr. Newman have found many of the state's top political leaders eager to court their latest organization, the Independence Party of New York.

Through the party, Dr. Fulani and Dr. Newman, who were once considered eccentric figures on the political fringe, have found new stature, to the point where Republicans like Gov. George E. Pataki to Democrats like Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and United States Senator Charles E. Schumer have courted their party's support. Today, the Independence Party is expected to endorse the re-election bid of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican.

(To read the rest of the article, click the link at the top)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Black America: We Have a Problem!

By Tyra C. Cohen

The media will have you believe the biggest post Black history month news is Martha Stewart’s departure from “Camp Cupcake” (Alderson Federal Prison Camp) after serving five months for what is coined a “white collar crime”. Alderson Federal Prison Camp has no metal fences surrounding the camp because most of the inmates are supposedly convicted of non-violent crimes. Inmates Sarah Jane Moore on September 22, 1975 and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme on August 22, 1975 tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Another notable inmate Jazz great Billie Holiday who in 1959 was arrested for Heroin addiction, an illness not a crime.

44% of all prisoners in the United States are black. The incarcerated populations have quadrupled since 1980 and guess what not because of violent crimes but because of the war on drugs or more particularly black drug users. African Americans are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for drug offenses at far higher rates than whites. Blacks constitute 63 percent of all offenders admitted to state prisons. The explosion in the prison populations has largely taken place under your beloved Clinton administration. While Clinton and the Republican Congress have gutted spending for welfare and social programs, they have poured billions into hiring more police, and building more prisons and boot camps. We live in a country that holds itself out as the “land of freedom” yet incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any other country. The absolute level of black incarceration should be cause for national concern.

Health Crisis
African-American youth are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Race and ethnicity are not risk factors but are risk markers that correlate with fundamental determinants of health such as poverty and limited access to quality health care. HIV/AIDS is the number one killer among African Americans ages 25-44. Don’t relax yet, the prevalence of HIV infection in people over the age of 50 years is growing. The number of AIDS cases reported in adults 50 years and over quintupled between 1990 and 2001 from 16,288 to 90,513.Yet one of the first things President Bush did after inauguration 2001 was attempt to close the Office of National AIDS Policy. HIV/AIDS epidemic is a health crisis for African Americans, yet we are blinded by the smokescreen called down-low. What is the definition of Down-Low? Does anybody know? New Jersey Governor McGreevey publicly admitted to “an adult consensual affair with another man.” J.L. King down-low poster boy and author of Living on the Down-Low says he was married and having adult consensual sex with other men. These are stories of sex, lies and just plain old cheating. It’s about dealing with critical, uncomfortable conversations about sexuality. White men are on the “down low” obviously and we live in a country that has far more white men than black men, so it stands to reason that there are far more white men on the down low. Why aren’t more white women being infected with HIV? We have a problem when we become so unconsciously entrenched in the media hype that we blame an entire epidemic on black men along with the victimization of black women. The real down low is the correlation between the rise in the prison population of African American men and the increase risk of leaving the prison with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and or tuberculosis. Incarcerated persons have a disproportionate burden of infectious disease.

Education is the only respectable catalyst for economic and social improvement. Now 50 years after Brown versus Board of Education we are in an ample position to historically analyze just what integration has done for the education of black students. We have a problem when the number of Americans living in poverty grew from 34.5 million in 2002 to 35.8 million in 2003, while the most affluent fifth of the population received half of all household income and the poorest fifth received only 3.5 percent. Nearly 1 in 4 African Americans live in poverty.

Supreme Court Justices have the power to influence every factor of our lives with their decisions as the highest court in the United States -- from the right to privacy to the right to free speech. Supreme Court decisions affect every law in the nation, and Supreme Court Justices serve lifetime appointments. Now with that in mind understand there is an opportunity during President Bush’s tenure to appoint potentially two Supreme Court nominees. Rumor, also known as the media has it that 80 year old Chief Justice William Rehnquist and 74 year old Sandra Day O’Connor may step down off the lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. This will give Bush the opportunity to change the overall orientation of the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor is the first woman appointed to Supreme Court, O’Connor has become one the most watched justices on the Court because she is known as the swing vote. One of the short list nominees is John Roberts. John Roberts clerked for the current Chief Justice Rehnquist, and was nominated in 1992 by Senior Bush but the nomination lapsed before it could be considered. Yet John Roberts was appointed in 2003 to U.S. appeals court in Washington, DC by President G.W. Bush. John Roberts has a record of hostility to the rights of women and minorities. He supported a hard-line anti-civil rights policy that opposed affirmative action, which would have made it impossible for minorities to prove a violation of the Voting Rights Act. He also took anti-choice positions in two Supreme Court cases.

African Americans must be revolutionary enough to know what time it is in history and do something about that. It is time in our history to turn inward as strategic planners. We cannot forget that former President Bill Clinton left a legacy in the prison system during his eight years in office that was more punitive than both of his Republican predecessors Reagan and Bush. In the last two decades the rate of Black incarceration more than tripled. The Reagan Administration gave us the Contras, drug for arms scandal and the surge of crack cocaine. While the Contra’s war is barely a memory today, black America is still dealing with its poisonous side effects. Urban neighborhoods are grappling with legions of homeless crack addicts. Thousands of young black men are serving long prison sentences for selling cocaine-a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA's army started bringing it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices. Cocaine, typically referred to as a white, middle-class drug, users receive lighter sentences than crack users. Crack is seen as a poor, Black drug. It takes 100 times more powdered cocaine to land you in jail than crack. Suppressing the Black vote is also achieved by disenfranchising incarcerated Black men. The best way you can destroy a people is to take away their ability to reproduce themselves. We have a problem.

African Americans must vote! We must vote because we need political rights and economic security. Out of the entire population of black-America, half of them are registered voters and 90 percent of those voted for the Democratic Party. Some African Americans have accused the Democratic Party of practicing "plantation politics." They say that although blacks repeatedly are depended on to keep the party in elected office, African Americans often are overlooked for key leadership posts. President Bush courted the Hispanic vote in the last election to the tune of an election year proposal that would grant immigrants legal status and release the threat of deportation. According to the last census report Hispanics are the largest minority. Democrats and Republicans, aware of the surge, have placed increased emphasis on attracting Hispanic voters.
Many young black voters are disenchanted with black leadership as well as the Democratic Party. Most aren't out to join the GOP, but they are more independent in their thinking and in their politics. There was a significant increase in those calling themselves independents, especially between the ages of 26 and 35. We need progressive independent political organizing that involves having goals that extend into the next millennium. Politicians are well aware of the correlation between the likelihood of voting and economic and educational background. All politics is local, so it is time that we take the necessary steps to control and fix what is going on where we live, instead of neglecting neighborhoods in order to rush to the aid of our friends across town; or worse waiting for help to come to us. Democrats take the black vote for granted and Republicans don’t need African Americans to win. Let’s join the 35% of Americans who identify as Political Independents. It’s the only way to Political Freedom.

Tyra can be reached at: Tyra_Cohen@yahoo.com

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Poor Have No Voice

By the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan

(To read the entire article, please go the the link above)

It’s said that most of the congressmen, the representatives of the American people, are from the wealthy class. The wealthy and the privileged in this society, who have benefited most from the federal debt, corporate restructurings and plant relocations, are the people charged with representing the poor. Can they adequately represent the poor?

......In the 1992 presidential debates, a young woman asked the candidates how can they, who have never known suffering in their lives, lead the American people and bring a healing to what ails the country? The closest people to the proper representation of the masses and their suffering are the Blacks, women, Native Americans, poor Whites and Hispanics. In the Congress, the closest representative of the poor is the Congressional Black Caucus. Each year, they have developed and presented before Congress a budget that would keep America strong, while at the same time looking out for the masses of America’s people. Each year, their efforts have been belittled and their budget has been voted down.

......In truth, the poor are voiceless in society as it is presently structured. Every president in recent history has been of the privileged class. This does not mean that being wealthy disqualifies one for leadership. Being wealthy does mean that there is a lack of an experiential vantage point that we must pay careful attention to.

It was Mr. Ross Perot, among all the candidates in the ‘92 presidential election, who recognized—and openly stated—that the wealth he has achieved is from the poor. Now he sees that same country and those same working-class people who gave him the opportunity to be a billionaire, going down the tubes.