Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Clinton, Obama, Edwards: Beyond Paralysis"

Ron Walters (Chicago Defender):
Right now most of the national polls are showing that the race for the Democratic nomination for president is among the three individuals mentioned above with everyone else in the background hoping they will fade. On the other hand, polls of the Black community are showing that Hillary Clinton is ahead of Barack Obama by more than 2-to-1 (52-28; CBS News, Washington Post, January 2007). These are early polls reflect not only the name recognition of the candidates, but the early support among Blacks for their bid. However, the polls could not just be a reflection of name recognition, because if that were true, then John Edwards, having run for vice president most recently in 2004, would be ahead of Barack Obama in all of the polls ñ but he is not.

So, a discussion has arisen about such issues as the relative strength of the Black vote essentially between Obama and Clinton, why the Clinton support is so large and whether Black still owe the Clintons anything.

In actuality, these polls reflect, not only that many voters, especially Blacks, do not know Barack Obama, and thus, may be more comfortable now with the legacy of President Bill Clinton that Hillary inherits, rather than the promises of the person or program of Obama that they have yet to sort out.

Nevertheless, my view is that all of this is beside the point and leads off into endless discussions that, while interesting, don't directly address the exercise of Black power. The real question to be considered now is who can we make the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party and how can we make that happen? That is to say, it is time to grow up and exercise the power represented by the Black vote within the Democratic Party in ways that return dividends our people and not allow the Black vote to be split three ways (or more) and become ineffectual in determining who the leadership will be. But this appears to be the road we are on, by choosing up sides based on personality rather than choosing up our interests.

The power we have is that the Black vote constitutes from 20 percent to 25 percent of the Democratic primary vote, depending upon the election and in some states such as Louisiana and Mississippi, it amounts to almost half of the Democratic vote. If Hilary or Obama win the early primaries in the predominantly White states of Iowa and New Hampshire, then South Carolina, where the Black vote is likely to be at least 40 percent of the total, could give either person tremendous momentum with two victories under his or her belt. So, there is a great deal at stake here in a decision by the Black community to support either one, or perhaps Edwards.
This a classic opportunity to exercise the leverage of the Black vote by organizing a process to influence who the nominee will be, in a multi-candidate field, that is somewhat complicated by the fact that all of them have credible records.

But what if one of them were to win the primary with the black vote badly split, then go on to win the presidency; we could not make as powerful a case for favorable public policy. The risk is that we deliberately organize and give one person our support and they loose the primary election. Not to worry, they still need our vote to win the general election. So beginning to think through and to organize a political process within the black community is fundamentally more important than the person right now.

My view is that candidate forums in the Black community should occur this year, then a Black convention early next year. The election campaign has moved off so quickly that it could be decided in the first set of primaries in January of next year. This means that any candidate forums organized next year may be too late to provide an opportunity for Blacks to learn to what extent a given candidate supports the Black agenda. Forums this year would provide an opportunity for the liberal agenda issues of Barack Obama to be seeded in the Black community throughout the nation, to give his support a chance to grow before voting begins next year. It would also test how the centrist ideology that Hilary Clinton supports may mesh with the vital interests of the Black community.

We are approaching another presidential election when there is so much at stake. In the past, blacks tended to give effective political strategy little play, but increasingly we won't be empowered without it.
Cross-posted at www.seattleforbarackobama.com.

No comments: