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June 22, 2004

Black Politics: Supply Side

I am thinking of black politics these days in terms of 'give to get'. What is it that specific constituencies of African Americans can get from their political representatives and what do they have to give?

The give side is relatively easy. There are three components of political support. Time, Loyalty, Money. Money is what blackfolks supposedly don't have, but what costs the most money in campaigns? Television. Without television, campaigns would be cheaper - and political decisions made upon the basis of what gets covered in campaign spots are fairly lightweight. They are to 'energize the base' or 'tip the balance'. In that way, they can be thought of as expensive, last ditch kinds of moves by candidates. If a black constituency knows the candidate before they appear on television, it ups the value of the other two components of political support. It also must be noted that the trend is toward focusing television ads at particular potential constituencies and that the money raised in campaigns is already 'too much'. You cannot say with your political donation "I want this money to go to a TV ad that says X". So it doesn't appear to me that increased black donations will result in increased black oriented TV.

Loyalty is something of a fixed asset on the left side of the ledger, which is to say that the Democrats have it from black voters and it doesn't seem to be moving anywhere. Because they have it, Democrats don't fight for it. Because Democrats have it, Republicans don't fight for it. So the value of this asset is somewhat diminished. It is commonly understood that the black vote is taken for granted. It's either Democratic or non-existant. Loyalty as a stick is not working for black politics because the Donkey's mouth is full of carrot.

Time is the final entry in the equation and it is difficult to quantify. What I mean by time is time away from your own life and donated to the life of the Party. Showing up at protests, registration drives, fund raisers, public events, hearings etc are all investments of time that draws one closer to the Party of choice. How much or little African Americans do this bit is unclear to me. Certainly only a fraction of the people who vote are active in this manner; I have no reason to believe that African Americans are significantly different. All I know is the anecdotal evidence of politicians meeting with black clergy. How many Sundays a year is that?

All told it seems to me that African American constituencies still have a lot more to give in order to influence what they might get. The status quo could use some improvement.

Posted by mbowen at June 22, 2004 07:26 AM

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MICHAEL D. COBB BOWEN COMMENTARY -- Black Politics from Booker Rising
The Republican blogger asks: what is it that specific black constituencies can get from their politicians and what do they have to give? He examines time, loyalty, and money. He concludes that the black status quo needs improvement. [Read More]

Tracked on June 22, 2004 09:04 AM


Why is loyalty so fixed? What values have past Democratic candidates shared with the black community that the Republican candidates have not? If the Democratic party is taking advantage of this loyalty, why isn't the "black community" saying, "To hell with loyalty!"? I ask these questions not facetiously but from honest curiosity.

Posted by: Zwicker at June 22, 2004 07:54 AM

I think it has to do with the distance and the difference between 'black leaders' that get free media coverage and those elected officials who actually represent black constituencies. In otherwords, the 'black agenda' is not really controlled by blackfolks. What a 'black' issue is gets distorted somewhere up the chain of communication such that suddenly it's something Jesse Jackson can rhyme, and Americans take it for granted that this is real black politics.

The result of this is that black politics from the grass roots has not evolved properly, and new issues that face African Americans are not brought to the public attention. This is why I think young blackfolks feel they are left out and that

Too many Americans are still fighting the culture wars, and still appropriating Civil Rights rhetoric when it comes to black politics. This is what fits in the headlines.

So neither the Democrats nor the Republican parties have any interest in expending effort to dig below this level. The only really new issue that wasn't a part of my parents variety of black politics are school vouchers. (off the top of my head). All the other issues are ossified and nothing Jackson or Sharpton haven't already talked about.

The real interests of African Americans are far broader and more diverse that what is considered 'black politics'. That is why things have to change on the supply and demand sides - because these interests are not being actively persued. We are stuck at a bad equilibrium.

Posted by: Cobb at June 22, 2004 09:19 AM

Vouchers are an important Issue but I belive it is one of many. I listed out a few when I had a positive exhange with promethus 6.


Posted by: Scott at June 22, 2004 01:38 PM

If Republicans really want the Black vote, the Black Republicans should tell the white Republicans to clean up their own damn mess. Meaning, white Republicans should be doing serious face time in the Black communities.

Meanwhile, Black Republicans should be putting the fire to Black Democrats who have sold out to maintain their office and their symbolic positions of power.

If Black Republicans really had any idea of what it takes to win, they would ask Blacks who have serious standing in urban areas to run for office as Republicans. Let them know money is going to come their way. Let them know that white Republicans will not stand in their way.

Let the Black Republicans take to the airways and address the issue of Democrats taking the Black vote for granted without saying Blacks are on the plantation.

Let them address the issue of school vouchers without slandering the teachers unions.

Let them address the issues of Black businesses.

Let them address issues of police in the community.

Hell, find a Black Democrat who is pissed and get him to switch parties. In Maryland, that would be Clarence Mitchell, III, aka C4.

In Maryland, Michael Steele is doing it right.

Even though he wasn't the 1st choice for state Republican chair, he went to the Black media and made the case. When I talked with him about Republicans treatment of Blacks, he conceded the points and then took the step to find common ground. After that, our conversation was good.

Even though he wasn't Ehrlich's first choice for a running mate, a white Democrat woman was, he forced concessions from Ehrlich to get Minority Business Enterprises to be a major focus before he accepted. He also made sure Ehrlich showed up in Black areas.

Posted by: DarkStar at June 22, 2004 07:03 PM