Monday, October 25, 2010

My Black Friend: African-Americans, Democrats, and the 2010 Midtern Elections

Black voters unite! The Democratic Party is once again in need of your blind faith and loyalty towards them to avert a collapse of historical proportions during November 2nd's midterm elections.

In a November 25th, 2010 piece in the Chicago Sun-Times journalist Laura Washington, who I had the "pleasure" of having as a professor at DePaul University, details how key Democrats in Chicago and all across the country are depending on the traditionally Democratic African-American vote to carry hotly contested local and statewide seats. Illinois Democrats are hoping to recoup the 800,000 voters in Cook County alone that sat on their hands during the February 2010 primaries after a monumental turnout in 2008 for the election of our nation's first black president.

Toni Preckwinkle, the former 4th ward alderwoman and current Democratic nominee for the embattled position of Cook County Board President, has started a grass roots get-out-the-vote campaign to make sure that black voters turnout in record numbers on November 2nd and turnout to vote for Democrats. In addition to working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to shake black voters out of their "midterm doldrums", Preckwinkle is also sinking $400,000 of her own campaign funds into motivating African-American voters in an off year election. Preckwinkle, whose victory next Tuesday is as close to an assurance as any other contest in the country, realizes that widespread Democratic losses in the President's home state will greatly undermine the ability of President Obama to govern nationally and make her job as the future chief executive of a county with more fiscal resources than some countries increasingly difficult. "Republicans around the country are going to use this as a bat to beat the president up with for the next two years. Furthermore, from my perspective," she added, "if we don't have a Democratic governor, I am not going to get any help as president of the County Board."

In addition to matching Precwinkle's donation, the SEIU is also contributing additional cash resources and in-kind donations such as a $128,000 radio ad buy. On Election Day they will dispatch 4,000 workers -- 2,000 paid operatives and 2,000 volunteers -- to beef up voter turnout in traditionally black enclaves on the south and west sides of Chicago. The efforts by Preckwinkle and the SEIU mirror efforts nationwide to bolster African-American turnout at the polls. This comes at a time when there is heavy anti-Democratic sentiments permeating throughout the electorate especially amongst Latino voters. Research sponsored by the SEIU showed that Latino voters are "mad" when it comes to the lack of progress made on promises made by then candidate Obama. "They're mad at the Democrats for not producing on immigration reform. They're not going to vote for Republicans, but they're not going to come out," Preckwinkle said.

As my former professor aptly noted at the end of her piece, "In desperate times, Democrats always turn to black voters." What black voters (including myself) should keep in mind before asserting their irrational tribal loyalties and requesting a Democratic ballot at their local polling place is the effect that the policies of the Obama Administration have had on the African-American community in particular. While roughly 14.8 million Americans or 9.8 percent of the populace finds itself out of work, an astounding 16.1% of blacks find themselves unemployed compared to 8.7% of whites and 12.4% of Hispanics. 9% of African-Americans in the United States own a home. A nearly equal number, 8%, find themselves without a roof over their heads after losing their homes to foreclosure. According to Neighborworks America, African-Americans and Latinos are 75% more likely to face foreclosure than their similarly situated white counterparts due in part to their disproportionate acceptance of subprime mortgages with their higher hidden fees. This comes amid news from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that 1 out of every 34 Americans that earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing in 2009. Things aren't just bad for black and brown folks. Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined -- except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.

Some of the same people seeing dramatic leaps in their already substantial personal fortunes are the very people who were bailed out by the Obama Administration just months earlier. Just in case you forgot, the Obama Administration absolved Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of their underhanded machinations by supporting and expanding the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) originally signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3rd, 2008.

As Ross Douthat iterated in a New York Times piece on October 25th, TARP may have been necessary at the time of its implementation to stave off double digit unemployment levels and sure up vital industries but the fundamentals of the policy still paints a picture in the mind's eye of Americans that screams of exceptionalism and crony capitalism between our government and Wall Street that has done irrevocable damage to the reputation of both establishments. Paul Krugman, also in an October 25th New York Times piece, takes an opposite course and asserts that the inadequacy of the initial stimulus, and not the passage of the stimulus itself, is the reason that Democrats will see a backlash during this year's midterm elections. "What we do know is that the inadequacy of the stimulus has been a political catastrophe. Yes, things are better than they would have been without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: the unemployment rate would probably be close to 12 percent right now if the administration hadn’t passed its plan. But voters respond to facts, not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed." Krugman goes on to say that voters turning on Democrats this election cycle will likely have the effect of voting to make things worse.

At least the Democrats and their fear mongering sycophants in the media are in synergy with their election tactics that reek of hypocrisy (How are Democrats scaring voters with constant reminders of the policies of the Bush Administration any different from Republicans scaring voters with references to socialism and terrorism?).

One Democrat that's not in lockstep with the Obama Administration's strategy for November is Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank T. Caprio. Caprio, ahead of President Obama's scheduled fundraising trip to the Providence Plantations, let the leader of the free world know what he can do with his endorsement. “He could take his endorsement and really shove it, as far as I’m concerned." Caprio is locked in a hotly contested race with former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an Independent and John Robitaille, the Republican who is behind Caprio and Chafee in recent polls. Former senator Obama and former senator Chafee are particularly close from their days on Capitol Hill. Caprio characterized the relationship between Obama and Chafee as "Washington insider politics at its worst..." and accused the president of using the state of Rhode Island "like an ATM machine." Caprio doesn't look like he will give in and start drinking the Democratic establishment Kool-Aid a week before judgement day. He is firm in his belief that his politics, and not his party affiliation, will be the deciding factor when voters go to the polls on November 2nd. “I will wear as a badge of honor and a badge of courage that he doesn’t want to endorse me as a Democrat because I am a different kind of Democrat,” Caprio told radio station WPRO-AM in a morning interview.

So, the Democrats are in trouble and, to no one's surprise, they are running palms up to the folks who have been disproportionately affected by the policies of the last two administrations for help. Having already thrown in the towel on Latino voters, the Democratic machine is looking to it's traditionally reliable enclave of black voters and suburban white female voters to mitigate what could potentially be a colossal loss for Democrats nationwide if Republicans score major wins in Illinois' senatorial and gubernatorial races. While it is natural for people to gravitate towards what is familiar to them, in this election cycle more than few elections before, it is pivotal that voters put their political loyalties aside and vet the candidates based on their plans to create jobs, curb wasteful spending, sure up social security for future generations, craft an immigration policy that is fair to citizens and immigrants alike, hold pollutors responsible for environmental damage, and end the discriminatory and demeaning policies of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and opposition towards gay marriage amongst many, many other pressing issues.

As Laura Washington stated in her piece, Preckwinkle and the SEIU are launching their grassroots voter turnout effort with the campaign message: "Hate vs. Hope." and the strategy: Convince black voters that Obama's credibility and success depend on winning Illinois. Many African-American voters, my mom being one of them, view President Obama as an extension of themselves and view his poll numbers not just as a barometer of how the nation feels Obama is doing on the job but also as a barometer of how the nation views African-Americans. For a small sub-segment of people, their views on President Obama's job performance may be a cryptic way of expressing their general feelings towards black culture. However, the recent Harris Interactive Survey showing that 63% of Americans have a negative opinion of the job President Obama is doing is not tinted solely by race or ethnicity but by the broader disillusionment that many Americans feel about what candidate Obama promised and what President Obama and his majority Democratic Congress have delivered. Toni Precwinkle, the SEIU, and other key Democrats would like to reduce the electoral equation to the least common denominator of race because they can bypass rational thought and win the votes necessary to remain in power. It would be a travesty of historical proportions to sit idly by and let race baiters play to our primitive, reptilian, tribal brains instead of doing the hard mental work that sustains our representative form of governance and, most importantly, the privilege of voting for subsequent generations.

The debate that we are currently having is integral to the health and maintenance of a strong republic. The folks on both sides of the aisle, Democrats specifically because they are currently in power, are concerned with maintaining the status quo in state and national legislatures because the status quo works for them. The status quo does not work for hardworking Americans that find themselves with burgeoning debt, without adequate employment and health insurance, and who see the American Dream slipping away with every choice they have to make between buying food or paying the mortgage. As Ross Douthat stated in his Times article, "So it’s a healthy and necessary thing that our first post-crisis election has been defined by a groundswell of anti-bailout outrage. This no doubt seems unfair to the politicians who may lose their jobs (or have already lost them) for doing what they felt they had to do. But it would be an infinitely worse sign for America if the present backlash hadn’t materialized at all."

President Obama boldly stated that change had come to America. Going to the polls on November 2nd and sending shockwaves through Springfield and Washington, D.C. by vehemently rejecting the status quo -- now that would be change that you could truly believe in.


  1. While I have a number of issues with this post, amongst them your claim that Ross Douthat is a liberal media member (if so, why do I hate him so much?), your consistent mispelling of Toni Preckwinkle's name and your linkage of Democratic efforts to remind people of Bush-era damage with conservative attempts to render any kind of change "socialist," I still very much respect your talent. I also agree that Barry hasn't necessarily done right by African American voters. Silver lining? I think I like Toni that much more after reading this piece.

  2. Thanks for pointing out my numerous typos. Misspelling Preckwinkle's name must be my subconscious way of getting back at her for promising to increase fuunding for my high school and then closing it down the next year as a part of a "reconstitution" (she basically kicked all of the black students out and bused in asian kids). I was referring to Paul Krugman as the liberal media (not Douthat) not because he always expouses a liberal point of view in his writing (because he doesn't) but because of the assertion that he mad that a vote against Democrats is a vote for the return of Bush era policies (typical contemporary liberal fear tactic). Thanks for the flattery. I'm certainly susceptible to it :-).