The Democratic Party is taking blacks for granted. Again.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Democratic National Committee laid off 10 black staffers this week. The layoffs occurred without any discussion between DNC chair Terry McAuliffe and the members of the Congressional Black Congress. Several leading black Democrats in Congress expressed shock and outrage when they learned of the firings.
"After I heard the names, I said, 'they're all black.' I couldn't believe it," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "I tried calling Terry (McAuliffe) but he hasn't returned my calls." Brazile, who took a pay cut while serving as Al Gore's campaign manager in the last election, to prevent the layoff of competent staffers, suggested that same option should have been extended to the staffers. "This is no way to treat a group that has been loyal to us. A group that gives us 80 percent of their vote."
In the 2000 presidential election, 90 percent of black voters cast their ballots for Gore. In Florida, Bush got only 7 percent of the black vote. Even in Bush's home state of Texas, 95 percent of black voters supported the vice president. Of course, these things tend to be cyclical. The Emancipation Proclamation formed a powerful union between African-Americans and the Republican Party that lasted from 1865 until 1972. The Democrats more recent support of minority voting rights, civil-rights initiatives, affirmative action, as well as its own ethnic diversity, established them as the party of inclusion for much of the '80s and '90s. Now, the pendulum swings again.
According to recent reports by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, African-Americans are becoming increasingly disenfranchised from the Democratic Party. Part of the problem is the perception that the Democratic Party, through sheer arrogance and conceit, is dissing blacks. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been engaging in genuine outreach on the issues that African-Americans care about most.
At bottom, Black America's loyalty to the Democratic Party makes it the easiest voting block for the party to take for granted. After all, what incentive is there for the Democrats to go out on a limb for blacks, if it is taken for granted that they would vote Democratic no matter what? In effect, black voters have given away their bartering power, making it very easy for Democrats to focus instead on courting other voting blocks, like the unions, Hispanics, etc.
Very simply, blacks are doing themselves a great disservice by giving their vote away. Consider President Bush's attempts to court the black vote during the 2000 campaign. He pursued African-American connections with more avidity than any Republican candidate of recent memory did. He studded his campaign trail with stops at inner-city schools, churches, welfare offices and black communities. He filled his commercials with minority faces in an attempt to tell minority voters that they were part of his party. He supported school vouchers, Social Security reform and school prayer - all issues that large majorities of African-Americans favor. It did not matter. Nine out of 10 black voters cast their ballot for Al Gore. This refusal to engage in any sort of give and take with the Republican Party does not bode well for Black America's ability to impact on social policy. As long as blacks continue to give their vote away, there will be little incentive to help them.
The Democratic leadership knows they have the black vote in the bag. That is why they are causally firing qualified minority staffers. That is why there has been no suggestion of a black vice presidential candidate on the 2004 Democratic ticket. That is why the Democratic leadership does not feel any pressing need to acknowledge the support of school vouchers among black voters. Of course, supporting vouchers would put the Democrats at odds with some of their biggest contributors - the teachers' unions. The union votes come first, and so the hope of equal access to a decent education falls by the wayside.
Meanwhile, black voters just get the same old story about how they're supposed to vote Democrat. Perhaps its time to start asking why.