WASHINGTON–The Rev. Al Sharpton, saying “We’ll never have this opportunity again,” took to the streets for what appeared to be an emergency cross country tour this week, hoping to rejuvenate the Barack Obama excitement that appeare
WASHINGTON–The Rev. Al Sharpton, saying “We’ll never have this opportunity again,” took to the streets for what appeared to be an emergency cross country tour this week, hoping to rejuvenate the Barack Obama excitement that appeared to have significantly waned after the Democratic National Convention last month.
“What we’ve got to tell people is what’s at stake; that we’re dealing now with the new unemployment. Unemployment is higher than it’s been in four years, we are seeing the education and health care of our people as worse than it ever was…We cannot afford to not vote,” Sharpton said in an interview with the NNPA News Service. “On top of that, we’ve never been this close. As African Americans, we’ve never been this close to a qualified African American who represents the right thing. If he didn’t represent the right thing and he’s wasn’t qualified, there wouldn’t be anything to be excited about. But, we will never have this opportunity again in our lifetime, and we can’t flow with being complacent.”
Sharpton, representing his nonpartisan National Action Network, took that message on a bus tour this week, campaigning for voter turnout in Black communities of key swing and battleground states including Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
In North Carolina alone, more than a half-million qualified Blacks are not registered to vote, Sharpton said.
“I think we could lose it. When you see 600,000 unregistered in North Carolina and when you look at about the same in Georgia, the amount of those voters registered and turning out could turn those states,” he said.
In America’s Electoral College system, whichever candidate gets the most votes in a state, wins that state and however many electoral votes assigned to that state. Therefore, although it is not a one-person-one-vote system, every vote counts toward who will ultimately win the most electoral votes.
“We could, by not coming out, cause the electoral votes to go to McCain, and he could become the next president,” Sharpton said. Perhaps the best example of this was the fight over Florida’s 25 electoral votes in election 2000. Al Gore had more popular votes. But with the Supreme Court’s decision to give Bush the win in Florida, he took the presidency with more electoral votes.
Sharpton, calling his tour the Not This Time voter education and registration campaign, said his effort is also to eliminate voter fraud.
Going into the party’s convention, Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee was running well ahead of Republican Sen. McCain.
Some polls showed him fluctuating between 5-7 percentage points ahead of McCain. However, McCain’s nomination of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a charismatic speaker, has added fire to his once dry campaign. The Obama camp appeared stunned to near-silence for the first few days after her rousing speech at the Republican convention. His numbers have recently declined, sometimes neck-in-neck with McCain; sometimes dropping as much as four percentage points below the campaign.
“I think that the dynamics of the campaign has changed, and there needs to be a lot more of a grassroots effort. A lot of the excitement seems to have waned,” Sharpton said. “And I think that there must be some real efforts from the bottom up to energize the base and bring the base out.”
Sharpton said he will not get into personalities or partisanship on the road. Rather, he will mainly stick to a message about the issues as he travels through grassroots communities.
“The issues are important because they move people. The people, at the end of the day, are concerned about themselves,” he said. “On the ground, in a bus, visible going through the schools, going to the churches where you can touch people and make them understand how significant this is…We need to have all hands on deck moving forward.”
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