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Folks Don't Get It: African-American voter disenfranchisement in the 2004 election

Y'all just don't get it. Let me tell you why, the way I would tell you if you were sitting in my livingroom chatting with me (in other words, excuse the vernacular, in advance).
I have noticed something. Since the election all the threads which have raised the issue of Black disenfranchisement -- whether in the context of Ohio this year, Florida in 2000, or generally -- as a form of electoral fraud have ended up devolving into ignorance and/or dying as threads. Specifically, whenever this issue comes up, whether in a diary of its own or in connection with someone else's Onio thread, there appear to be three primary reactions:

A vigorous attempt to insist that systematic disenfranchisement through whatever means is not the same thing electoral fraud, such that the Ohio disenfranchisement is less of a priority right now since it will be fixed "someday"; or

Silence in response to any poster who contends that, whether or not it changes the outcome, the ongoing fight to count all votes in Ohio is a fight to ensure the rights of African-American voters and thus deserves the party's public attention and commitment.

A cry of "tin foil hat" and arguments that nothing is "proven" so it must not be reality -- it's just bad planning, bad administration, in other words, just an unfortunate mistake.

Go review the recent threads yourself. Look at what responses come to anyone who dares mention that the Ohio fight is about African-American voting rights and not about John Kerry and his embarassing (but in hindsight quite predictable) loss to the Chimp. The silence I mentioned as Item #2 is particularly deafening, and it is the most common reaction. Including most notably from the "official posters" of this site such as Kos (and including Kid Oakland, who, living in the city he does, should damned well know better).
Silence speaks volumes. So does minimizing what others tell you is their injury. So does pushing off a solution to some time that is more convenient for you without regard to the feelings of those suffering the actual injury.

Since folks like DemocratDem and others are taking off the gloves, I'm also going to, for want of a better term, also call a spade a spade, from my perspective as a Black woman progressive:

People who are pretending that the Democratic party is doing something -- or intends to do something -- meaningful in Ohio to fight for the rights of African-Americans who were disenfranchised are full of shit.

Let's be clear. Kerry isn't being masterful behind the scenes, as some folks want to pretend. He's saving his political ass, at the expense of the very same Black folks he PROMISED he would not let be cheated out of the right to vote again. Kerry isn't just "waiting his time" - he's hiding in the latrine, terrified to publicly associate himself with anything that confronts the corruption in Ohio because of the potential political cost to himself and the fear that someone might call him crybaby names (i.e. "sore loser"). From the perspective of a white politican, this makes perfect sense since, as anyone involved in mainstream politics knows (even though it is never said in polite company), it is a foolhardy business bucking the system just to protect the rights of some Nigras. (Yes, that is extremely bitter and angry sarcasm, and the choice of the word is quite deliberate). Kerry's conduct and the conduct of the Democratic party vis a vis fighting to count Black votes (and thus, everyone's votes) in Ohio is not brilliant post-election strategy - it is living, breathing proof of the ongoing cowardice and self-serving nature of liberal white racism, something quite familiar to those people of color in America who have been victimized by it politically over the years even as they were promised it wasn't true.

If you need any proof that what I am saying is true, you need look no further than at who Kerry is asking to carry his water on issues relating to Ohio disenfranchisement -- Black folks such as Jesse Jackson. Am I the only person who finds it more than a little bit bodacious that Kerry was actually telling Jesse Jackson that he should make more of an issue about certain things in Ohio, instead of Kerry being a man and stepping up to the plate himself, since after all it was his voters, more often than not, that were cheated? Is that too much to ask from the man who said he cared about us and begged us to vote for him, instead of what we've gotten which is him subrosa coming into cases as "amicus" and "intervenor" rather than as the directly interested party, letting the Greens take the heat of all the namecalling and dismissiveness and insults? As the urban youth might have once said in response: "Nigga, please!"

IMO, the collective Democratic silence about what happened in Ohio demonstrates conclusively that Democrats are no better, morally, than the very Republithugs they condemn. They certainly have less of a spine, when it comes down to fighting for what they say they believe in. I don't care how many times liberal folks ooh and ahh over Martin Luther King, Jr., and how much they love him. If you knew anything about Dr. King and what he was fighting for other than the 30 seconds of "I Have a Dream" we've all been spoonfed you'd know that this beloved man would have been out in the streets protesting THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION once it became clear that our people had to SUFFER to vote - again. Well, here's a newsflash: Just because folks are not shooting at us or throwing bricks or blocking schoolhouse doors or turning water hoses on us means little in the arena of voting rights. The KKK wears suits now, and sits in corporate boardrooms now. The Citizens Council buys politicians -- of all races, since after all easy money has a way of de-colorizing the best of folks -- who conveniently forget to have enough machines on hand for voters; realign precincts and voting places immediately before the election; issue rules locking down public records, or even petty ones about the weight of paper for a valid ballot. Policians who take care of their massas because their massas take care of them, by permitting thugs to challenge legitimate voters en masse without a whimper, forgetting to send absentee ballots, forgetting to count ballots that are actually there. All far more genteel and "intelligent" than the methods of old, wouldn't you agree?

Yet all have the same ultimate impact on African-American voting rights, in the end. And that is what the fight in Ohio is really about, for those of you who don't get it.

There is a saying in the Black community: If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. The reaction (or, most notably, lack thereof) of mainstream Democrats and the Democratic Party to what happened to African-American voters in Ohio, following what happened in Florida, makes crystal clear to this African-American voter what the Democratc Party is indeed willing to go for.

So, as I said before, y'all don't get it. I am becoming increasingly convinced that you will never get it because, in the end, it's all about you, and not about us. What is happening now with the Democratic "leadership" (including its strongest advocates and mobilizers in the blogosphere) is making crystal clear that you are quite happy to allow our rights to be sacrificed for some "larger good" that you are seeking (one which conveniently doesn't negatively impact YOUR rights or access to power).

As I mentioned in the last post I made, I've been a lifelong Democrat. My mother was in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, my mama also didn't raise no fools. I'm African-American first and no matter how much other folks tell me that they care about my people's rights, the proof is in the pudding. The rabid insulting those who wish to continue to fight for our rights; the willingness to obfuscate or ignore this issue or allow it to sink from public view; the readiness with which folks would rather call others crazy (i.e. tin hat brigade) than admit that African-American voters in Ohio deserve the party they have been steadfastly loyal to for 40 years to fight for them NO MATTER WHAT; the convenient knee-jerk promise for "reform" for "next time" while allowing what happened in Ohio THIS TIME to pass without a fight REGARDLESS OF WHETHER KERRY WON OR LOST (I honestly don't give a damn) should tell any rational person what the truth really is. It definitely should tell any Black person deluded enough to believe that the Democratic party and its majority membership really gives a damn about us what the truth really is.

The real shame about this entire situation is that the truth about the Democratic Party and what it is really prepared to do for Black folk (precious little) has hurt and disappointed and will continue to hurt and disappoint so many African-Americans who genuinely wanted to believe they had a real ally in their unique American struggle in the Democratic Party. But, if I am honest, I admit that it is largely our own fault. After all, in hindsight we were told 40 years ago by one of our own that Democrats and Republicans were precisely the same animal, when it came to a willingness to fight for African-Americans' interests. The one thing that has become clear post-2004 is the truth of that statement. And that truth will, I predict, cost the Democratic party the most loyal base it has had since the late 1960's.

Which is to the party's detriment since, in the end, the Democrats cannot win an election without us -- and have not been able to since John Kennedy -- without getting back in bed with the Good Old Boys that abandoned the Democrats over....US. Given some of the talk on DailyKos and other similar places about what "should be done" to "win back" "those folks", that may indeed be the preference of those in the party's leadership. If so, I wish folks would just own it because at least it's honest and I can do nothing but respect honesty, however painful.

BTW, if you think Black folks aren't privately talking about this amongst ourselves and what this means for us and our future in this country, you are not hanging out with the right people. But we are, on both sides of the Democratic-Republican divide. And one thing is clear already -- 2004 in Ohio will not be forgotten any more than 2000 in Florida has been. It may well be, given what is being said, that the Democrats are in for the same rude awakening that the Republithugs got in the late 1960's, unless they get scared and run Obama at the top of the ticket. It certainly will be interesting to see what whose rights the Democrats are willing to sacrifice in 2008 with a vague promise for a "better future", when Black folks either stay home or vote something other than Democrat in numbers not seen since Eisenhower.

It's a shame. This reality about what the Democratic party really cares about is the same reality that Malcolm X talked about 40 years ago. Paraphrasing that great and maligned man who nonetheless loved his people more than himself, when it comes to believing in the Democratic party as the protector of our rights, African-Americans have been misled. We've been had. We've been took.

Which is why the DLC better not bother ringing my telephone in 3.5 years begging (yet again) for my vote and especially not begging me to get out the vote for Democrats again. Enough of this "you don't see them until election time, you can't find them until election time" bullshit. Two chances to put up or shut up when the rubber met the road vis a vis blatant African American disenfranchisement is more than enough chances for any political party, IMO. 2000 and 2004 were those chances. There will not be any more, not from this voter.

The Democratic party will be a very interesting place once once formerly loyal Black Democrats like myself abandon it. But IMO that abandonment is in OUR best interests. Since we are going to lose anyway, and since it is clear that the DLC is willing to sell anyone down the river to win, I hope that more and more of us will be willing to say "we lost but we lost with integrity" and vote our conscience instead of 90% of us following a party loyalty left to us by our parents from a time when Democrats actually pretended to give a shit about our voting rights.

I fully expect to be troll rated since that seems to be the new deal here at KOS with those who aren't toeing, for want of a better term, the party line. So be it. But speaking truth to power is still the right thing to do, whether it is to the Old Guard of the party or, in this case, the Nouveaux Guard as reflected at sites such as DailyKos. So, if I offend you, you might wish to examine why within yourself, rather than just be offended because it's easy to dismiss what I've said, that way. But in the end, that's up to you. We all have free will, after all.

Not the Lone Ranger 20.Dec.2004 07:59


Out here in the southwest, there are reports aplenty of indigenous and hispanic voter disenfranchisement. It's not just an African-American thing. It affects everybody who is color-coded for membership in the lower classes, as well as lower-class caucasians.

It's really quite simple. It doesn't require an elaborate conspiracy to disenfranchise voters, if the funding for the precincts is tax based, and the neighborhoods are poor and working class. The funding mechanism is largely sufficient to guarantee that these neighborhoods will get the crappy, malfunctioning voting machines and that the voting will be poorly administered with loads of screw-ups. Really, why would you expect your balloting to be of a better quality than your public schools- in either case, quality is reserved for the well-to-do.

Not that this is the entire picture. I realize that there were also Republican operatives out to challenge and/or intimidate voters of color. I am just saying that the system accomplishes a large measure of the disenfranchisement automatically based on class and income without conscious and deliberate racist conspiracy being required.