Democrats, We are Your Base!
For years, Black people have delivered our vote to Democrats. Many Democrats wouldn’t have won without our vote. Now some Black people, and other people of color, have become discouraged because no matter the votes we deliver, we are taken for granted. Once elected, many forget our efforts on their behalf.
When I ran for the U.S. Congress in my home state of Louisiana, I lost by less than one-percent in a 2/3rds Democratic District. Much of my organized support came from Congressional Black Caucus members and a few Progressive Whites. I received lukewarm-to-no support from the state Democratic Party. On the strength of Black voters and a few White people, I won 97,000 votes at a time when many Democrats were winning their Congressional seats with 35,000 to 40,000 votes. As a first time candidate, we brought out a record number of Democratic voters in my district.
Congressman John Breaux also ran for the U.S. Senate. His campaign events weren’t attracting as many potential voters as mine. His crowds were often so thin that he left and came to my events. We welcomed him, and on the strength of the Black vote, he won. I lost narrowly because he was unable to deliver any votes to my campaign.
My campaign ended with a debt. Customarily, losing candidates get help from those who win to assist in debt-erasing fundraising efforts. Since I had helped him so much, I thought it was logical that Mr. Breaux would lend his name to a fundraiser for me. Instead, his response was, “Well, I’m a U.S. Senator now, and I don’t lend my name lightly.” I’m sure there’re other candidates who can relate. Apparently, Mr. Breaux’s Whiteness overshadowed his party loyalty and loyalty to his fellow Democrats. That’s just one example of the treatment African American Democrats often receive from the Party we consistently help to gain so many victories.
Until President Barack Obama ran for office, I voted for Democrats, but I’d lost my enthusiasm for my Party. My enthusiasm returned full force in 2008 and 2012. By 2016, I still enthusiastically supported Secretary Hillary Clinton. I did so because she was a Democrat, but also because she was a woman – and, just as we had waited for the election of an African American, we women had waited too long to see a woman elected President. African American women worked so hard and had such high hopes, but so many of our White friends – especially White women – betrayed us and voted for Donald Trump! My enthusiasm was once again damaged.
Now, I see a Party leadership enslaved to misplaced loyalties. Rather than growing and rewarding that portion of the base that has given unwavering allegiance to party objectives, leaders debate the how-to’s of making White males happy and bringing white women, who rejected the Party en masse, back into the fold.
A pragmatic post-mortem of Election 2016 indicates a party failure to focus on registration efforts in the Black community. There was a reluctance to spend money with organizations and efforts by the Black press to help Get-Out-the-Vote. The party lost opportunities to place our issues up front and center, to hire more of us on their staffs, and to do more to show their appreciation for our loyalty.
Despite the current discord in national politics, we need to be able to identify who we can confidently call “leader.” Whatever the party agenda, it must specifically address a realistic plan to improve our communities, put our people to work, fix our schools and streets, and put an end to the insane racist behavior trending throughout the nation. Democrats, your most loyal supporters are waiting for you to recognize what The Party would look like without us!