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Dealing with Disrespect from Democrats and Republicans

By George E. Curry/George Curry Media Columnist
On June 29, 2016

After last week's column on how the major presidential candidates snubbed organizers of this year's National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, I received quite a few emails asking: What can we do about it?
 
For anyone who may have missed the column, I noted that in an ultimate show of disrespect, each major presidential candidate declined to appear before the National Black Political Convention in Gary, despite it being co-sponsored by the National Policy Alliance, a federation comprised of 10 major Black organization, including Blacks in Government (BIG), the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
 
BIG represents three million Black government employees and the CBC says its members represent approximately 43 million people.
 
I pointed out that most Republicans wouldn't dare insult conservatives by failing to appear before the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and that neither Democrats nor Republicans would decline to show up for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Yet, they don't think twice before skipping a major gathering of African Americans.
 
And we continue to take it.
 
First, let's stipulate that standing on the sidelines is not the answer, regardless of how disappointed we may be at the behavior of Democrats and Republicans. Not voting is a vote – a vote against anything approaching a progressive agenda. With the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court hanging in the balance, that alone should motivate us to turn out this fall in record numbers.
 
Second, it's irresponsible to suggest that there is no difference between the behavior and voting records of Democrats and Republicans. I certainly can identify with the frustration of dealing with liberal condescension, but that shouldn't blind us to the outright hostility of Republican leaders. Picking the lesser of two evils still leaves us with evil, but not nearly as much evil were Republican policies adopted.

Exhibit A is the GOP record in Congress. When the NAACP graded members of Congress on issues important to African Americans, every Republican in the House and Senate received an "F." Not a D-minus. Not even a D-plus. Voting for them would be voting against our own self-interests.
 
It hasn't always been this way. Blacks voted Republican from the Reconstruction Era immediately after the Civil War until 1936 when Franklin D. Roosevelt received 71 percent of the African-American vote in the most lopsided electoral victory in history. After Harry S. Truman desegregated the military and the federal workforce, he received 77 percent of the Black vote in 1948. Even as late as 1960, Richard Nixon got 32 percent of the Black vote against John F. Kennedy.
 
But the Republican Party grew increasingly anti-Black and no Republican president has received more than 15 percent of the Black vote since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2012, Mitt Romney received 6 percent of the African-American vote, according to Roper, and Donald J. Trump appears on track to receive less than that.
 
More than a half-century after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Blacks are still underrepresented in public office. As a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies report found, "Based on the most recent data, African Americans are 12.5 percent of the citizen voting age population, but they make up a smaller share of the U.S. House (10 percent), state legislatures (8.5 percent), city councils (5.7 percent), and the U.S. Senate (2 percent)."
 
And some of that failure rests squarely on our shoulders.
 
As the report noted, " ... In 2014, when there was great unrest over a police officer's killing of Michael Brown, African Americans made up 67 percent of residents of Ferguson, Missouri. In 2012, a solid 100 percent of Ferguson precincts went for President Obama, but during Ferguson's municipal off-cycle elections voters selected but during Ferguson's municipal off-cycle elections voters selected Ferguson's Republican mayor and six city council members, all of whom except one were White."
 
But the problem is larger than that. Essentially, we provide the margin of victory for Democrats year after year and often get little or nothing in return.
 
So back to the original question: What can we do about it?

George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media

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