The following piece is from Houston Forward Times. It was written by Jeffrey L. Boney
By: Jeffrey L. Boney
It’s that time again!
Election season is upon us and, in typical fashion, every political candidate is scurrying around seeking the support of registered voters who can elect or re-elect them to office. Yard signs have popped up in neighborhoods all across the state of Texas; radio and T.V. ads have become more frequent; public appearances have become more prevalent; and mailers are about to be sent in mass – all with the hopes of wooing registered voters.
It is never uncommon to see candidates knocking on doors, visiting churches, leaving door-hangers, kissing babies and shaking hands in order to get voters to show up at the polls during election season to cast a vote in their favor. Some candidates are running unopposed, but the race for Governor is heating up, along with other important statewide and county races.
Candidates from all political parties are campaigning and soliciting votes from registered voters who they hope will help them get re-elected to office or become the new kid on the block.
One group often counted on to help sway the results of any local, statewide or federal election where they have a presence, are African American voters. While African American voters are a dedicated and powerful group of individuals, it is no secret that the majority of African Americans vote overwhelmingly for candidates in the Democratic Party in nearly every national election, with identical results reflected in local and state elections.
African Americans make up a little over 13% of the overall population in the United States.
As each election season comes around, members of the African American community are presented with the same old message from political parties who use the same old methods to get them registered and get them out to vote when it is time. African Americans are consistently told that without their votes select political candidates can’t win. Political parties and political operatives use many of the same archaic methods to reach the African American community such as working to increase eligible voters through registration efforts, have social events, work through incumbent elected officials, send out mailers and do the church circuit.
However, when it comes to Black voter education and Black media inclusion, there is a limited approach to ensuring that African American voters are also properly educated and aware. The same energy and efforts these elected officials use to get elected or re-elected, should be the same energy used to educate the Black community and respond to the needs of constituents.
History shows us that Blacks had been loyal and understandable Republican voters, especially when you look at many of the efforts championed by the Republican Party of old.
African Americans identified themselves as and voted for Republican candidates between the Civil War and through the early part of the 20th century. One key factor was Abraham Lincoln, who championed the Emancipation Proclamation, being a Republican president. Several other key factors were when Democratic President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 when it came across his desk, only to have the Republican House and Senate overturn his decision; and when Republican President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 into law once it hit his desk from the House and Senate. Most Blacks who lived in the South were mostly prevented from voting and it wasn’t until 1924 that Blacks were even permitted to attend Democratic conventions in any official capacity.
Blacks were loyal Republican supporters until 1948, when Democratic presidential candidate Harry S. Truman received roughly 77 percent of the Black vote. It was then that many Blacks started making the transition to the Democratic Party. However, not all Black people made the full switch right away, especially with the support we see today. In 1956, Republican presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower garnered 39 percent of the Black vote, while Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon got 32 percent of the Black vote in 1960. It was the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 championed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and opposed by his Republican opponent Senator Barry Goldwater that allowed Johnson to receive 94 percent of the Black vote that year. The following year President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, and ever since, no Republican presidential candidate has gotten more than 15 percent of the Black vote. Knowing that the African American community currently votes for Democratic candidates in an overwhelming fashion nearly every election should cause the Democratic Party to never take such a strong voting bloc for granted.
According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of African Americans voted for then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Fast forward to 2012 and we see that African American support for President Obama dropped slightly, but not much, as Blacks once again overwhelmingly voted for him by a staggering 93%. His election appeared to reflect progress and indicate a huge political leap forward for Black people. Many African Americans had resolved within their hearts that electing a Black man to the White House was unattainable due to the racist history of this country. Now that he has been elected, they want to see change.
Politicians have long been staples in our community. Historically, many African American taxpayers have treated elected officials like high-profile celebrities instead of public servants. The Black community rewards these elected officials with their votes, but there is hardly ever any reciprocity. Many of these elected officials hold community breakfasts, a fish fry or a community social event, but when the Black community really needs them to address real issues, most of their demands and concerns fall on deaf ears. It is as if many of these elected officials refuse to provide voters with the substantive information and support they need to become a more informed and engaged voter and citizen – on purpose.
Many citizens do not understand legal and political jargon; but it is the job of each elected official to help constituents understand what things mean and how they will impact them – just like an interpreter is there to interpret differing languages for those who do not understand. Elected officials must be the interpreter for constituents in the Black community.
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