Irrespective of what you think of Herman Cain, the current Republican Party with its Tea Pot tempest (the Tea Party), President Obama, and the Democratic Party, each election represents an educational opportunity that can assist in closing the great divide between the “haves” and “have-nots.” There are many lessons for us to learn and many opportunities to make our government work more effectively.
But being caught with the side shows that distort the true campaign process of discussing ideas and solutions, and not taking time to fully understand how our two-party system of government works today, and its history, could forever place us in the dark. The great power we hold as voting citizens will continue to be rendered impotent and thus ignored.
This is particularly true with the African-American voter, more than with any other minority or ethnic group, because they have not been successful in becoming a viable part of both parties. So blacks are either courted or ignored, fleeced or flogged, when it comes to the electoral and public policy process.
It is a fact that blacks have not in recent history been a part of or represented in the Republican Party as most other minorities and ethnic groups. It is a fact that blacks in a disproportionate number identify with the Democratic Party, justifiable or not. And blacks as a group have paid a tremendous price in recent history, both in terms of perception and reality.
Take the prevailing perception that most blacks are more liberal than conservative and therefore are, or should, belong to the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party. Along with that view are other philosophical assumptions that come into play. On the individual level, there is a prevalent belief that most blacks believe in big government programs and handouts rather than economic independence and self-sufficiency. On the organizational level, there is the belief that the Democratic Party is more inclusive, empathetic, and supportive of the needs and interests of blacks than the Republican Party.
Those two notions stir heated debates in many circles. But past and recent history could provide some interesting facts, and shed light on any discussion. The past has not been prologue when it comes to how blacks have held elective office by being a part of the Democratic Party vs. the Republican Party.
For example, did you know, that following the Civil War and during Reconstruction, blacks were very active in Republican Party politics and served in almost every level of government?
For more than a decade, blacks held offices from the United States Congress to state legislatures, city councils, and county commissions. There were two senators and fourteen representatives in the U.S. Congress alone. Blacks held more state offices in the Deep South than any place else. Blacks formed the majority in the House of Representatives for the state of South Carolina throughout that period — a state remembered today has having fought vehemently to continue to fly the confederate flag atop its capitol.
After the Civil War, much of the political advances for blacks were a direct result of the Abolitionist Movement. One of its strongest and most effective leaders was Frederick Douglass, a black man, who remained a staunch Republican all of his life. Douglass, described as an indefatigable journalist, and influential orator in great demand, held a number of positions in the national government.
Today, when you look at elective office, it is just the opposite. Since that period, blacks have not had two US senators to serve at the same time in either party. And they certainly do not form a majority in any state’s legislature. Why? The discussion is certainly worth having by civic-minded blacks and whites interested in making a two-party system work better for all groups.
More importantly, such a discussion could go a long way to dispel some myths that are at a minimum negatively compromising, if not downright regressive, in the century-old quest for blacks to exercise their political power and influence to advance their interest just like other ethnic groups, irrespective of which party is in power.
Some good results could emerge. Among them, the realization that blacks, like whites, are both liberal and conservative; most blacks would prefer a meaningful wage-earning job than welfare; and we all share the same loathsome regard for paying excessive taxes.
But perhaps the greatest realization of all would be for more blacks and whites to recognize the importance of participating in a significant way in both parties in order to have an avenue to impact those issues that are important to them on an ongoing basis.
What good is it to have your interests looked after for four years and then only to be ignored, if not totally diminished, the next four years? Furthermore, how can you fight for what is in the best interest of your state, your city, your community, your family, if you are not even at the table?
We have a two-party system of government in this country. One or the other will always be in a position to call the shots about your quality of life. You should make it your business to have a say no, regardless of which party is in power.
If you want to influence the direction of the Democratic or Republican Party, the only way to do it is to join them and mobilize. If we have learned nothing from the Tea Party movement, we have learned that.