Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Attention Black Leaders: You will need more than Town Hall meetings and Tours with this Congress.

Apparently enough is enough!  GOOD!!!  It's about time. It appears that many Democrats finally have that fire in their belly. That same fire that drives the Tea Party appears to have been lit in many prominent democratic figures. Black "Leaders” [Editor’s Note: “Leaders” is very general – used more as a catch-all. Someone from the Black community with more than their share of national attention – for good or bad] are angry over the Black unemployment rate - which has always been higher than the average - and are taking steps to help improve the numbers.  The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has launched their "For the People Jobs Initiative" hosting several job fairs, hosting town halls, and introducing legislation that will create jobs!  Other "leaders" have launched similar initiatives all in an effort to improve conditions within the Black community. 

Their actions should be applauded.  Doing something, anything, in my opinion, is better than doing nothing.  However, there is more that could/should be done.  While these are noble actions, I've noticed that the "leaders" have also directed some of their anger towards President Obama. I will be the first to admit, some of that anger is deserved.  However, if they want political results, I’m not sure this is the best approach. While this president deserves much of the criticism headed his direction, some of that criticism needs to be directed at Black “Leaders” like YOU, Maxine Waters, Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, and others. I don't believe you can complain about the politics - or lack thereof - and then not use the political tools at your disposal to change it.  Going after the president is a good talking point, but it is NOT results oriented. To be clear, this is not to be confused with speaking out against Obama. If you disagree with his policies, then by all means, be my guest. If you don’t like his leadership style or you’re critical of his handling of congress, then write him a letter – I fully support it. However, if you are looking for specific government action and results (i.e. black unemployment) then blaming the President and asking him to do something in this political climate is not the correct course of action.

Does anyone really think if President Obama proposed a “Get Black America Back to Work” jobs bill right now that it would get through congress? Hell, if President proposed ANY jobs bill (a REAL jobs bill that required stimulus spending), it would be shredded by the Tea Party and never see the floor for a vote.

It isn’t the President you should be looking towards for help with the Black unemployment. To begin with, I argue that it isn’t even the president’s job to focus on the employment of one specific group over another. But past that, with THIS congress, you shouldn’t be looking at the president! No, you should be looking at congress; how you can influence them to give you the results you want? You aren’t going to influence them with tours and town hall meetings alone.  To move congress, you must steal a page from the Tea Party.  Like the Tea Party, you've got to go hard at congress.  If you don't, then the blame lies with you. Just like the old adage, if there is one finger pointing at the president, then three are pointing back at you! Yes YOU!

Politics is chess not checkers. While you’re still waiting for Obama to “jump” congress to make it to the other end of the board and be “Kinged,” the Tea Party’s playing chess and their “Sicilian Defense” has your “King” in Check – and come November 2012, possibly mate. Why? They hit their representatives where it hurts, their constituents. We may disagree on 99% of the issues, but the Tea Party has found a way to get the results they want. They had issues and complaints about what the president was doing just as you did. However, in addition to their town hall meetings and tours, they bypassed the president and went straight after congress. They took a no-holds-barred approach to getting the results they wanted; with the help of FOX news and big money donors, the gained more influence over the political process than simple tours and town hall meetings alone.  The Tea Party put their issues on the table, and if their representative wasn’t behind them lock-n-step, they kicked their ass out of congress. Period! They bragged about shaking up the establishment.  They went toe-to-toe with the old "do nothing" Republicans and replaced them with "to hell with the debt ceiling" minded individuals.  There were no concessions; the Tea Party went straight State Property (ironic – I know) on the rest of the Republican Party, “You either get down or lay down; if you lay down you g’ing stay down!” They rallied conservatives from the East to West, from North to South. For those Republicans who didn’t “get down,” they were dismissed! They were even so bold; they came into a few Democratic “controlled” districts and took some of those as well. Seriously.  Don't bitch about government action now!  Where were you in 2010 when a democratic strong hold like South Carolina’s 5th Congressional district, a district that hadn’t voted anything other than Democrat since 1883, went to the Tea Party? While their gains in the 2010 election may have been overblown in the media, they did enough; now the Tea Party’s impact is felt globally.

In 2010, the Tea Party’s approach went right to the heart of one of the problems within the Black community; voter apathy. If you are SERIOUS about making “change” in the black community, you would first recognize that the African American voter turnout is just above single digits.  Especially in the mid-terms.  You MUST get that up! The Tea Party rallied their conservative base and FORCED their politicians to listen.  I’m not saying go all “Death Panel” and “Socialism” on folks, but with unemployment as high as it is, I'm quite you should be able to turn that into some sort of voter turnout. In 2008, a year when enthusiasm in the Black voting community was high and accounted for 13% of the voting population.  In 2010, African Americans made up 10% of the voting population.  Conversely, the White vote went up, representing close to 80% of the voting population.  From 2008 to 2010, the overall voter turnout increased.  So let’s do the math; if the overall turnout went UP from 2008 to 2010 but the Black vote went DOWN, is there any wonder as to who's voice is being heard?  To me, you can’t complain about getting the short-end of congress’ attention when you can’t even get your folks out to vote.

Your ideas and policies are at odds with congress – specifically the Tea Party, not the president’s. You must be equally as aggressive and direct if you want to achieve your results. Simply saying, “hold our leaders accountable” is lip service and produces little results, and while hosting town hall meetings and job fairs are VERY important, you can't stop there.  You must make those in congress work for you or change their faces.  You must offer your representative ultimatums.  You must provide a counter-balance to the Tea Party.  If they want to keep their positions, they must do as YOU say. If not, you replace them. You replace them by putting candidates on the ballot that YOU want. Far too often in the Black community we vote on politicians that decide to run. In the end, we vote from a list of folks who told us they’re running instead of putting our own candidate on the ballot from jump. If your representative won’t vote your way, you grab the middle school teacher; or the family practitioner; or the city council member that shares in your ideas and beliefs and you put them on the ballot. You rally your liberal base behind that candidate and you force out the representatives who don’t support you are your initiatives. This is the exact approach that the Tea Party took and now they have serious candidates for the highest office in the land. If you want results then this is what it comes down too. I don’t know if it is apathy or ignorance, but you better identify it and fix it. You can’t be scared to call folks out. While you’re on your tours or hosting your town hall meetings, use that time to rally your base. Let them know to hold their representatives accountable. In politics, the squeaky wheel gets the most money. The person with the most money wins. Right now, the Tea Party is making the most noise. You want to complain about results, then its time you take a page out of the Tea Party playbook and point your focus in the right direction. You can be critical of President Obama, he deserves it; if you want results, then you need become the “Tea Party” of the left – “either get down or lay down.”

Should there be a counter-weight to the Tea Party?
Can the CBC be that counter-weight?
Would this approach work and produce results?
What does the CBC need to do to produce desired results?
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