At 8:23 a.m. Tuesday, I was the eleventh person to vote at Santa Fe Elementary School in Oakland for California’s spring election. I wasn’t surprised. Special elections are notorious for low voter turn out. Twenty-three states, including Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington and Alabama will hold special elections this year. A handful of dutiful voters will decide pivotal state Assembly and Senate seats, Mayoral, Congressional and Gubernatorial races.
And political operatives of all stripes count on that fact as a means of controlling policy-making and public opinion. This chilly Wednesday morning we are faced with this reality. The energy of the Obama campaign has dissipated, and that kumbaya, multi-culti, young coalition of “Yes We Can” voters has moved on. Well, we don’t have the luxury of wallowing in a post-Obama election haze. This may not be a repeat of that exhilarating November night. But it could become a reoccurring nightmare for communities of color if we don’t act now. Here are four reasons why we need to get our political mojo going.
1. Numbers matters. Elections are a numbers game. And since communities of color could provide the margin of victory in most cases, we must be prepared to leverage that power. The US Census Bureau reported a few weeks ago that communities of color are the majority populations in 3142 counties across the county.
Over 1 million immigrants became US citizens last year. When we move these numbers to the polling station, guess what? We win. Hello, President Obama! And when we continue to move our communities into action (via legislative visits, letters, phone calls, emails, and other forms of direct action) we influence the way the rules (the policies, the procedures, the laws) get written. Numbers matter.
2. The rules must change. Our electoral system is whack! The racist Electoral College, voter ID laws and so–called voter protection rules and regulations being promoted by conservative forces must be defeated. And as we speak the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that could turn back the clock on voting rights in this country. Remember poll taxes and history tests? Any victory that we have around healthcare, education, immigration or other key issues, can be turned on its head by electoral shenanigans. So it’s in our self-interest to be just as vigilant about election reform and voting rights.
3. No one should get a pass on race. Black and Latino businessmen and city officials were the loudest opposition to the living wage and health care ordinance that I organized for in Milwaukee years go. Meanwhile the white leadership stood back and allowed them to take the heat. I said it then and I’ll say it now, regardless of who they are, they should held accountable for the joblessness and poverty that ravaged our community. And those politicians, Black, Latino, Asian, white or otherwise, should pay the price on election day. When a homeboy (or gal) shows us that they couldn’t give a damn about home, we shouldn’t hesitate to return the sentiment.
4. This is not about Obama. The truth is it never really was. For the first time in a long time, we were presented with a hopeful vision of a world that we all wanted to live in. We deserve and demand a society that rejects the pessimism of unending racial conflict and embraces the optimism of a human community firmly anchored in justice and mutuality. It’s that vision, not the person that should inspire and drive our movement for racial and social justice.