Blacks consistently practice one party politics in a two-party system. Despite giving the Democratic Party more than three-quarters of a century of unflinching loyalty, they are neglected by Dems and all but ignored by Republicans.
Dems know blacks value the role of government much more than the general population. So they ply blacks with an unending stream of government handouts. However, there are lessons from black political solidarity. The first is that once addicted to “victim benefits,” it is almost impossible to ever want to be deprived of them. The second is that Dems don’t feel compelled to offer more because the black vote is a foregone conclusion.
Republicans, it should be noted, have learned to win without the black vote – Democrats can’t. The GOP currently holds all the highest elected offices in Michigan, including the Legislature – as well as both houses of Congress and the presidency at the federal level. This was accomplished with little support from the black electorate.
Although receiving more lip service than benefits, blacks remain loyal to the party that subjugates them. Years ago, however, one of America’s most prominent black leaders warned of the consequences of putting all eggs in one political basket.
In a column distributed by the Los Angeles Times syndicate in the late 1970s, the Rev. Jessie Jackson, urged black voters to diversify.
“Political power is cut into two parties,” Jackson wrote, “and blacks cut themselves out of their full share of power as long as they only vote for one party…”
Jackson’s point was that a contributing factor to voter neglect is the predictability of the vote. With the exception of black Americans, all political groups exercise flexibility and manipulate both parties to achieve strategic objectives. Southern Democrats, for example, have bolted the party and joined Republicans, or formed temporary third parties as a tactical advantage.
Hispanics, who supplanted blacks as the largest American minority group, tend to vote more Democratic overall, but not nearly as much as black voters.
There’s no evidence that blacks are about to stray from the flock. However Jackson foresaw a day of reckoning.
“Democratic strategists everywhere are beginning to sense how fragile their grip on black votes is becoming,” he said. “They know the moment of truth may be only a realization away.”
Could this be the year? Public opinion polls show younger, educated blacks are not guided by tradition or ideological purity. Rather they vote for what ultimately is in their long-term best interest – low taxes, access to jobs, good educational opportunities and business formation.
Pragmatically, increased black participation in the GOP can be a healthy development. Benefits from a new political alignment range from increased competition, more accountability and attention from those elected. Both parties would have to court the black vote.
“Those blacks who merely vote to be voting and those who do not vote at all can make their votes count more than once,” Jackson noted, “if they consider adding their strength to the Republicans’ thin ranks.”
Is this is the year blacks change the complexion of politics? Or will they ignore Jesse’s historic pearls of wisdom and remain captive to the Dems’ empty promises?
“Blacks do not owe the Democratic Party, it owes them,” Jackson eloquently ended. “The Democratic Party does not protect blacks, blacks protect it.”
For more than 16 million black voters, it’s decision time.
Lead photo by Jim West
Editor’s note: Bill Johnson is an award-winning freelance broadcast and print news journalist and former Detroit News columnist. He served as public affairs officer for the Detroit Water & Sewerage Dept., as CEO for the Wayne County Commission and as press secretary for Wayne Co. Executive Bill Lucas. He runs his own political consulting firm, the Bill Johnson Group.