Ransom Notes: Democrats and the Black vote

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When Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert L. Vann suggested in 1932 that Black voters should no longer pledge allegiance to the Republican Party, it started an unhealthy relationship between Black voters and Democrats that has reached obsessive proportions

When Pittsburgh Courier publisher Robert L. Vann suggested in 1932 that Black voters should no longer pledge allegiance to the Republican Party, it started an unhealthy relationship between Black voters and Democrats that has reached obsessive proportions.

Since Vann exhorted Blacks to “turn (Abraham) Lincoln’s face to the wall” (in favor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s), the Democratic Party has enjoyed almost fanatical support from Black voters. We voted Democratic even when it was clear that Democrats were not operating in our best interests. We voted Democratic even when the Democratic candidate insulted us and took us for granted. We voted Democratic even when it was Democratic governors in the South (George Wallace, Orville Faubus and Ross Barnett), not Republicans, who defied the federal government and vowed not to allow integration to force white children to share classrooms with Black children.

Which brings us to Democrats in 2009.

I’m not sure when the national Democratic Party decided that it would try to divest themselves of the Black vote. It became clear that was an objective during the Democratic presidential race, when Democrats seemed to be stacking the deck against Barack Obama. It was Democrats who sharpened their knives on Obama long before John McCain and Sarah Palin took aim at him. In fact, some of the most telling political jabs that McCain and Palin landed were simply recitations of some of the jabs Democrats threw at him.

But now come Sen. Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic U.S. senators. They have penned a letter vowing not to seat Roland Burris as U.S. Senator from Illinois because he was chosen by that national embarrassment, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Reid wanted to take the high road and say he liked Burris, but he and his fellow Democratic senators were so disgusted with Blagojevich, that they could not see themselves seating any appointee chosen by Blagojevich.

We had the very unflattering portrait of 50 non-Black, non-Republican U.S. senators, opposing the inclusion of a Black senator, chosen legally by the sitting governor of Illinois, who has not been impeached, not been convicted and not been stripped of any of his duties. It was Democrats standing in the door of the U.S. Senate Tuesday, refusing to seat a duly-appointed member, not because that appointee was unfit for the job (they acknowledge that Burris is quite qualified), but because they are embarrassed by Blagojevich.

But Reid’s moral indignation was merely an excess of the most prolific by-product of the U.S. Senate: hot air. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported last week, Reid called the governor up to suggest a few candidates for the appointment. Reid allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that he steer clear of appointing any of the strong Black candidates (Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones) because they would have trouble getting votes statewide.

Reid opposes Burris, even though Burris has proven that he can get votes statewide (three terms as comptroller and one term as attorney general).

While Rep. Bobby Rush unabashedly plays the race card, arguing that an all-white U.S. Senate should not oppose the seating of a Black man, especially in replacing Obama, Reid deals the race card from the bottom of the deck. At least Rush is up front saying he wants to make sure a Black gets the seat and says the Senate should be embarrassed in this multi-cultural society to convene with no Black members.

But Reid suggested to Blagojevich that he should instead choose Tammy Duckworth or Lisa Madigan or… well, the next best white person. Anyone but those three Black men. Reid, who has never received one Illinois vote, ignores the fact that Illinois voters have twice elected a Black to the U.S. Senate.

Certainly, Blagojevich played the race card as well. In a bold stroke, Blagojevich disarmed those who said he could not make an appointment, and challenged state and national Democrats to risk alienating their loyal voting base.

It has been argued here before that Blacks should not commit their votes to a single party but instead should play power politics and force both political parties to court that vote. But remaining in thrall of Democrats, we invite the kind of disrespect we get from Reid and his U.S. Senate colleagues.

Have we started turning Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s portrait to the wall yet?

Lou Ransom is executive editor of the Chicago Defender. He can be reached at lransom@chicagodefender.com.

Copyright 2009 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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