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Unity 2004: Coalition predicts unified vote initiative

It’s too early to begin the campaign, you say! Well, ready or not, it has already begun and Black organizations and voters should begin to turn their attention to the political scene. It’s too early to begin the campaign, you say! Well, ready or not, it has already begun and Black organizations and voters should begin to turn their attention to the political scene. The reason is that the stakes are higher this coming year than I have seen them in quite some time. Prior to the past several elections, the United States was not bleeding in a foreign and illegitimate war, going bankrupt and accumulating trillions of dollars in debt, standing alone without significant allies—embarrassed before the global community—and sliding off the moral end of the universe. This situation is so severe that unless it is corrected, the government for some time to come will be all but useless in contributing to the well being of Blacks and other peoples of color, poor people and even the middle class. In other words, you might as well hang it up!

This means two things. First, it means starting early to organize the Black community to participate in the quadrennial event of selecting a president, his administration and the Congress. We are often a "last-minute" people and we let others treat us on a "last-minute" basis. This characterization extends to the Democratic Party, which has generally waited until the last minute to supply the financial resources that allowed the Black community to mobilize the vote in support of a presidential candidate.

Increasingly, elections are technical affairs, costing significant sums of money to do outreach effectively through the media and by mounting door-to-door contacts. The Black community has seldom had the financial resources to do this right. Ironically, White organizations have had such resources and have attempted to play the major role in affecting the turnout of Black voters, but they have not been as effective as Black groups with far fewer resources. Part of the problem is that we have fallen into the trap of not demanding that the resources available for the big push be shared equitably with the Black community.

Hispanics, however, have been accorded a favored place in this election cycle, with a substantial war chest under Bill Richardson, a shining star in the Democratic Party who is governor of New Mexico and a former Clinton cabinet official. The grant to Hispanics is predicated on the fact that they are a critical swing vote that has increased substantially in population and may make the difference in the coming election. This may be true, however, it also marginalizes the Black vote, which was 13 million in 2000, while the Hispanic vote was 6 million. Also Black turnout was 54 percent, while Hispanic turnout was 28 percent. At this writing, however, the party has not established a significant war chest under the control of Blacks. Our real strength is a coalition between Blacks and Hispanics, but the party appears to be playing one group against the other.

Second, the stakes suggest that as never before, this should be a unified and well-coordinated effort among Black organizations and between Blacks and their natural coalition allies. The National Coalition on Black Civil Participation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Melanie Campbell, has developed a "Unity Campaign" as an umbrella for a number of nonprofit organizations to join in nonpartisan voter registration and turnout drives. In an effort to develop a more effective get-out-the-vote operation, however, the coalition will establish a national program that will be based on state-level turnout. This program, however, should feature a vigorous outreach that must be put in place and tested far in advance of voting next fall; early preparation is the key to institutionalizing the goal. And although political parties cannot be members of the Unity campaign effort, there is ample room for other organizations that want to participate.

The issue with respect to Blacks and funding in

October 20, 2003
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