While the national pundits postulate on the reasons why minority voters didn’t turn out as enthusiastically and effectively as they think blacks and minorities should have, minority voters themselves know the truth. For generations, the Democratic Party has taken the minority vote for granted. In 1996, Max Cleland was delivered from almost certain defeat with a strong black vote from the 4th Congressional District. In 1998, Roy Barnes was taken to the Governor’s Mansion as a result of, once again, a strong black vote. But these two stunning victories failed to see sufficient returns for blacks in Georgia. Starting in the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., black leaders have warned the Democratic Party to deliver on that check returned to black America stamped “insufficient funds.”
In fact, in a recent CNN analysis of the black vote, the current Senate Democratic majority is traced directly to the black vote of 1996, 1998, and 2000–“the election cycles that produced the current 50 Democratic seats. CNN’s conclusion: had no blacks voted in any of those years, the Democratic majority would have disappeared to no more than 37 Democratic Senate seats. Yet, in a Joint Session to confirm the 2000 Presidential Electoral vote no Democratic Senator would rise and object to the Florida electors, which would have given the objecting Congressional Black Caucus two hours to debate the 2000 Florida debacle. The Democratic Party must do more to deliver the spoils of victory to its base minority communities or else, the Democratic Party will experience many more defeats. White Democratic leaders going to black churches in the weeks just preceding an important election smacks of insincerity and actually hinders the Democratic campaign. Black voters, like all voters, will respond to respectful attention on the issues that affect the community. The fact that black and minority communities continue to suffer huge quality of life disparities will undoubtedly contribute to the drag on minority enthusiasm in the ritual of voting that seldom results in fundamental changes in the quality of life for the bulk of minorities in America.
The stunning General Election debacle just experienced by Georgia Democrats clearly indicates that the Georgia Democratic Party has been on the wrong track and must set itself straight or be forever consigned to history’s sidelines. For the first time since the Civil War a Republican will occupy Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion. The longest serving Speaker of the House in any state of our union, Georgia’s own Tom Murphy, will no longer occupy that familiar seat; and several shoo-in Democratic Congressional seats didn’t turn out that way. In addition, one so-called Democrat who was elected last night has vowed to vote with the Republicans on all the “critical” issues. Clearly, Democratic strength in the State of Georgia has been diluted to levels unprecedented since the Civil War.
The people have clearly said to the Democrats that the current way is the wrong way.
The Democratic Party and its leadership must look and think like the people it purports to represent. Democrats must stand against Bush’s impending war and the increased militarization of our foreign and domestic policy. Democrats must not be afraid to tackle the issue of our national and international security and the lack of accountability thus far of the Bush Administration for tremendous failures witnessed by us all. Democrats must decry the growing expenditures of guns over butter and the Bush Administration’s failure to fund crucial domestic needs. And finally, it is the economy, stupid!
All Democrats must share in the joy of victory or certainly many more will feel today’s sting of defeat. The new, post-November 5, 2002 Democratic principle must be that every voter is important and every vote counts.
Failure to take stock now will forever consign Democrats to the sidelines of public policy.