(NNPA)—At the funeral of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald Brown, President Bill Clinton made an announcement stunning to some but obvious to us. And, that was had it not been for the Black vote, he would not have been elected president in l992 and re-elected in l996.
In the recent critically important mid-term elections, officials of the Democratic National Committee either ignored this political fact or simply took the Black vote for granted. The results were a disaster for Democratic house members.
Why did the Democratic National Committee fail to mobilize and maximize the Black vote in the mid-term elections? This is a salient question because it is, or should be, obvious that in a close election the turnout of Black voters will be the difference between victory and defeat.
One answer to this question is the fact that the Democratic National Committee invests the bulk of its resources in reaching out to voters it was unlikely to get and didn’t get while largely ignoring the most loyal and traditional base of the party, Black voters.
It’s not as if another path wasn’t suggested. I personally, on behalf of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (Black Press of America) and our more than 200 Black publishers nationally, produced proposals for aggressively reaching the Black voter nationally. However, despite my discussions with DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, he and his DNC trusted minions turned their backs on us (the NNPA) and Black voters.
The only support we could count on was DNC Political Director, Clyde Williams, who respected and understood the value of the NNPA advertising campaign, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and other advocates such as Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Barbara Lee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Whip James Clyburn, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and National Urban League President Marc Morial.
However, the DNC staff followed their own ways—a little here, a little there, but not enough to make a significant difference and far too late.
Teaching voters is a complicated exercise in this digital age, with the need to reach people everywhere they consume media. As the saying goes, all politics is local. And the fact is, on the grassroots level the people most likely to vote are those who use and trust the media that responds to the needs of their community on an ongoing basis—the Black Press (NNPA).
Particularly for candidates at the state and local level, support of the community and its businesses send a tangible message to voters that the candidate is willing to invest resources in the communities they hope to represent. The candidate needs to ask for our vote but in order to make that point effectively, the outreach must come early and often, with backup resources.
Without question, President Obama has the right vision and the best plan to move America forward, but the Democratic National Committee must do better in helping him get his message out to the people, particularly Black people, to ensure that we are inspired to vote. The DNC must also value our vote. I believe, in reality, the Democratic “shellacking” could have been avoided. The Obama Administration, in a very short time, has had enormous successes—health care reform, the extension of unemployment benefits, and more—that touch lives in a substantial way. But who would know a story that hasn’t been effectively communicated.
Democrats can’t expect to win if the message of former President Clinton doesn’t ring clearly in their ears and brain. They also can’t expect to win if they don’t or won’t go into the Black community and ask Black people for their vote.
When you look at the election, where Democrats advertised, went into the Black community, campaigned and asked for our vote, we won. The two best examples of this fact are California and Massachusetts however; there are a host of other critical states where candidates did not advertise, go into the Black community or ask the Black voters to come out and vote, and they lost. Democrats can’t expect to win, if at the end of the day the verdict for Black Voters is ignoring them or taking them for granted. The strategy of “too little, too late” is not a viable and winning strategy.
(Danny J. Bakewell Sr. is chairman of the NNPA/Executive Publisher-Los Angeles Sentinel.)