The Black vote: Political decisions vs. political choices

JAMES CLINGMAN | 2/8/2016, 9:13 a.m.
Picture this headline: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders win respective nominations.
James Clingman

(George Curry Media) – Picture this headline: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders win respective nominations. Let that marinate for a moment before reading any further.

Now, what is your reaction? Faced with those two choices, what will you do? For whom will you vote? Will you vote at all? Or, will you go to either (or both) of the candidates and make demands, insisting that unless they support your positions publicly and in writing, you will not vote for them? No matter who ends up on the ballot, our choice for president will be based on decisions made by others.

Some people use “deciding” and “choosing” interchangeably, and in some cases that’s fine. But in politics, it’s intellectually dangerous and comes with negative results for the electorate. Remember George Bush’s words, “I am the decider”? That was his way of saying I have the final say. Like the president, the Supreme Court decides; political handlers, donors and operatives decide. The electorate chooses, with the exception of the 2000 election where the Supremes decided who would be president.

What about Black folks? As I wrote in this space last year, Black folks do not have a say in who wins Iowa and New Hampshire, which are the primary indicators of who gets the final nomination for president. Why would candidates spend millions of dollars to win those two small states? Iowa has a 91 percent White and 2 percent Black population, and only six electoral votes; New Hampshire has a 93 percent White and 1 percent Black population, and only four electoral votes. By the way, the third state to vote is South Carolina, which has a 28 percent Black population and nine electoral votes.

The bottom line in this exclusionary process that takes place during the run-up to the presidential election is this: The majority of the electorate is only left with choosing among, and later between, the candidates decided upon by a hand-full of powerbrokers and opinion leaders.

Listen to the speeches and watch the debates, and you will see a glaring absence of rhetoric about Black issues, such as those listed in the political platform of the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors. Lip service and posturing are the rules of the day for candidates who want the Black vote. The bar for their response to our needs is insultingly low. Just say, “Yes, Black lives do matter,” and you got Black votes. Just say, “I am for voting rights,” and you lock up Black votes. Just mention MLK’s Dream, or Rosa Parks’ refusal, or the Selma Bridge, and the Black votes are in the bag – mostly the Democrats’ bag.

Bernie Sanders, according to an article written by Ta-nehisi Coates, said the likelihood of reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in America “is nil … I think it would be very divisive.” That’s a real interesting response in that reparations for Jewish people were not deemed “divisive” by Sanders. Barack Obama does not support reparations; Hillary Clinton and all the Republican candidates do not support reparations. So Black folks “ain’t got nothin’ coming.” Surprised? I doubt it.