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Romancing the ‘power to vote,’ ignoring our ‘voting power’

James Clingman | 3/20/2014, 2:57 p.m.

(NNPA) – It’s so silly for Black people to fight over the Dems and Repubs when it is counterproductive for us to be enslaved by either party. Between the late 1800s and the early 1900s we voted nearly 100 percent Republican. Now we vote nearly 100 percent Democrat. What has that gotten us besides being ignored and taken for granted? Do we have real political power?

We have been instructed and admonished to be independent and only give our votes to individuals who act in our best interests, but we have failed by doing the exact opposite. It makes no sense to give virtually all of our support to one political party and receive patronizing crumbs in return.

To a large extent, our problem is centered on our romance with the vote itself. We hold our ability to cast a ballot in such high esteem, sadly, as though that alone will solve our problems. Not so. Voting is simply the first step, not the final step. Without power behind our precious votes, we are a paper tiger, helpless to affect positive change for ourselves in the political arena. The key word is ourselves, because we have certainly helped make things better for other groups.

So, with our political predicament in mind, here are my thoughts: If we are unwilling to vote as independent critical thinkers, we should stay out of the voting booth. If we are not inclined, on a local and national level, to collectively leverage our voting power, then all we will ever have is the power to vote. If all we are going to do is vote, there is no need to vote at all.

Now before some of you get your jaws tight, just think about all the energy Blacks have put into voting. Think of all the sacrifices made, all the mistreatment we suffered and even this month, as we remember “Bloody Sunday,” how we are still fighting to keep our precious vote. Compare all of that to what we have gained by merely casting our votes and then going back to sleep. We have treated elections like popularity contests and euphoric exercises that only give someone a “job” for as long as they want it, whether they produce or not. We have misused and abused our precious vote by being uninformed on issues and candidates alike, and by being unwilling to do anything except vote for whatever or whomever the party tells us to. That’s sheer nonsense.

As much as we say we need “power,” both political and economic, our actions belie our words. Claud Anderson, in his book, Black Labor White Wealth, wrote, “… groups aspiring to gain political power can only obtain and use it if they have economic power as well … Voting rights have pacified Blacks by allowing them to make choices but never decisions.”

If voting alone gave us power, we would not have heard “You lie!” during the State of the Union Address; Darrell Issa would not have dissed one of our most respected and respectable congressmen, Elijah Cummings; and Paul Ryan would not have uttered his ridiculous comments about “inner city” men. Voting is part of the process that, if supported by economic power, leads to real political power.