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/


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Anonymous said...

Here are but a few reminders of Hillary's 'experience' while first lady...

As First Lady, Hillary assumed authority over Health Care Reform, a
pro cess that cost the taxpayers over $13 million. She told both
Bill Bradley and Pat Moynahan, key votes needed to pass her
legislation, that she would 'demonize' anyone who opposed it. But
it was opposed; she couldn't even get it to a vote in a Congress
controlled by her own party. And in the next election, her party lost
control of both the House and Senate.

Hillary assumed authority over selecting a female Attorney General.
Her first two recommendations (Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood) were forced
to withdraw their names from consideration, and then she chose Janet
Reno. Janet Reno has since been described by Bill himself as 'my worst
mistake.' Hillary recommended Lani Guanier for head of the Civil Rights
Commission? When Guanier's radical views became known, her name had to be withdrawn.
Hillary recommended her former law partners, Web Hubbell, Vince
Foster, and William Kennedy for positions in the Justice Department,
White House staff, and the Treasury, respectively. Hubbell was later
imprisoned, Foster allegedly committed suicide, and Kennedy was forced
to resign. Hillary also recommended a close friend of the Clintons,
Craig Livingstone, for the position of director of White House security.
When Livingstone was investigated for the improper access of up to 900
FBI files of Clinton enemies (Filegate) and the widespread use of
drugs by White House staff, both Hillary and her husband denied
knowing him. FBI agent Dennis Sculimbrene confirmed in a Senate
Judiciary Committee in 1996 both the drug use and Hillary' involvement
in hiring Livingstone. After that, the FBI closed its White
House Liaison Office, after serving seven presidents for over thirty years.

In order to open 'slots' in the White House for her friends the Harry
Thomasons (to whom millions of dollars in travel contracts could be awarded),

Hillary had the entire staff of the White House Travel Office fired;
they were reported to the FBI for 'gross mismanagement' and their
reputations ruined. After a thirty-month investigation, only
one, Billy Dale was charged with a crime - mixing personal money with
White House funds when he cashed checks. The jury acquitted him in
less than two hours. Another of Hillary's assumed duties was
directing the 'bimbo eruption squad' and scandal defense:

She urged her husband not to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit? She
refused to release the Whitewater documents, which led to the
appointment of Ken Starr as Special Prosecutor.
After $80 million dollars of taxpayer money was spent,
Starr's investigation led to Monica Lewinsky, which led to
Bill lying about and later admitting his affairs.

Then they had to settle with Paula Jones after all.

And Bill lost his law license for lying to the grand jury.

And Bill was impeached by the House

And Hillary almost got herself indicted for perjury and obstruction of
justice (she avoided it mostly because she repeated, 'I do not
recall,' 'I have no recollection,' and 'I don't know' 56 times under oath.

Hillary accepted the traditional First Lady's role of decorator of the
White House at Christmas, but in a unique Hillary way. In 1994, for
example, the First Lady's Tree in the Blue Room (the focal point each
year) was decorated with drug paraphernalia, sex toys, and
pornographic ornaments, all personally approved by Hillary as the
invited artists' depictions of the theme, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.'

Hillary wrote 'It Takes a Village,' demonstrating her Socialist viewpoint.

Hillary decided to seek election to the Senate in a state she had
never lived in. Her husband pardoned FALN terrorists in order to get
Latino support and the New Square Hassidim to get Jewish support.
(She was not readily endorsed for the office by fellow Democrats either.)

Hillary also had Bill pardon her brother's clients, for a small fee, to get financial support.

Then Hillary left the White House, but later had to return $200,000 in
White House furniture, china, and artwork she had taken.
( I guess the Air Force One goodies got to stay with her.)

In the campaign for the Senate, Hillary played the 'woman card' by
portraying her opponent (Lazio) as a bully picking on her.

Hillary's husband further protected her by asking the National
Archives to withhold from the public until 2012 many records of their
time in the White House, including much of Hillary's correspondence
calendars. (There are ongoing lawsuits to force the release of those records.)

As the junior Senator from New York, Hillary has passed no major
legislation. She has deferred to the senior Senator (Schumer) to tend
to the needs of New Yorkers, even on the hot issue of medical problems
of workers involved in the cleanup of Ground Zero after 9/11.

Hillary's one notable vote, supporting the plan to invade Iraq, she
has since disavowed.

Quite a resume, don't you think?

Why would anyone in his right mind vote for her?