Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sacrilege? Why Black Voters Should Support A Primary Challenge to Obama

I left the following comment in response to an entry published on the Angry Black Lady blog disparaging the proposed third party challenge that Cornel West and Ralph Nader are organizing against Barack Obama in 2012.

You have to factor in history when you have these discussions. Hillary Clinton was polling around 70% with black people at this point in the 2008 election (i.e. roughly 14 months from election day). Obama trounced her in the primaries (taking greater and greater shares of the black vote as the primaries rolled on). No one is unbeatable and no one politician has a lock on the black vote nationally. Obama's poll numbers with black people are already dropping. I have seen polls with that number in the 70s as recently as roughly a week ago.

The real problem for Nader and West is, they should have been planning this primary challenge, with a candidate in place, since 2010. Whoever was going to run should have been on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire since at least spring of this year.

In terms of the tone of this piece, I urge you (and others who agree with you) *not* to assume that (1) black people will vote as a bloc for Obama (2) Nader and West don't have legitimate policy differences with the President (3) progressives (and the black people (progressive and not) who *aren't* supporting Obama in polls) don't have legitimate policy differences with the President and (4) policy differences with the President aren't worthy of being respected, just like every view in a democracy that doesn't overtly advocate for the oppression of one (or more) group(s) of people deserves some measure of respect, even as we disagree. I don't see how calling someone an "asshat" is useful to the political discourse at all. Regarding Nader's usage of the loaded Uncle Tom term, I don't expect him to apologize to Fox but I would expect him to apologize to *us* (while, at the same time, this lays out clearly the problem of racializing internal arguments that black folk have had internally for years, i.e. the attempt to measure the blackness of one person or another by their policy positions...we built the slippery road that Nader slid down (even though I would argue we have a group prerogative to determine which members of our group are adhering to an internal code (no Reconstruction Black Codes pun) that Nader, as a racial outsider to our group, lacks) (leaving aside debates about whether phenotypical traits are even valid principles to organize around, period)).

The more important question for black voters should be what course of action serves our short term and long term interests? The historical precedent of electing a Black President has been set. Do we need to vote as a bloc for a Black President who waited until his term was 75% over to propose a jobs bill when black unemployment was rising through his whole term and never seriously addressing the foreclosure crisis when it let to a roughly 50% decline in black net worth, according to some claims? I would say no. Everyone should vote their conscience. The biggest wake up call to the Democratic Party would be if they lose any sizable portion (5% or better) of the ever-faithful black vote in a re-election campaign led by a black candidate.

Since the "Bullet Or The Ballot" speech, if not earlier, black critical thinkers have assailed the tendency of black people to vote overwhelmingly for one party (it used to be the Republicans but switched to the Democrats, particularly from the 60s forward, as they offered more policy proposals that directly addressed our community concerns). When our support was in flux like it was in the 60s, we had Republican presidents like Nixon creating the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, because it still seemed like such overtures might earn (or retain) a vote or two. We lost our seat at that GOP table, from a policy perspective. I don't think losing a seat at a prospective third party table is smart politics. If Obama wins with 51% of the vote, a progressive-libertarian third party coalition takes between 3-5% (ideally 5%) and a Republican candidate loses with 44-47% of the vote (likely given Obama's organization and fundraising), this is a win-win (particularly if the third party coalition West and Nader proposes pulls in the magic 5% that gets them access to matching federal funds in the next election cycle).

If anything, considering rumblings from the right to form a third party that will dilute the Republican vote, black voters who aren't Republican or conservative *should* be seeking to dilute the Libertarian vote with a progressive-Libertarian alliance, so that the conservatives don't have complete control over the Libertarian movement and seize the crucial 5% of the vote for whatever third party *they* assemble.

This is chess, not checkers.

(cross-posted to my blog Tell A Lie Vision, because I didn't do all this writing for nothing...LOL)