Low Black Voter Turnout Could Unseat Senate Democrats
Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report shames Democrats’ record on social programs and says “fear of the Republicans” strategy to get out the black vote is unlikely to work
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. Also, welcome to this edition of the Glen Ford report.
Glen Ford is the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Glen hosted Rap It Up–first nationally syndicated hip-hop music show broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford also cofounded The Black Commentator in 2002. And in 2006, he launched the Black Agenda Report.
Thank you so much for joining us, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: [Thank you for] this opportunity.
PERIES: So, Glen, what’s on your mind today? What are you working on?
FORD: Well, I was looking at The New York Times, as we’re forced to do, and I was struck, struck by a headline. The headline read, “Black Vote Seen as Last Hope for Democrats to Hold Senate”. And I thought it was a very, very sad headline. I’m not sorry for the Democrats, because they have cynically used the black vote and stirred up fears of Republicans as their only offering to black folks. But I think it’s really sad because so many black people have put their last hopes on the Democrats. And that’s a party that has been totally captured by Wall Street. And there is no hope of some progressive resurrection occurring there.
The Democrats are especially desperate to get black votes in order to retain control of the Senate in the South, in the states of Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia. And that is really historically ironic, because the last modern Democratic betrayal, fundamental betrayal of blacks occurred in the South, and it happened in the 1980s. And it was when white Democrats were disappearing through attrition in droves to the Republican Party and white Democratic leaders found that they were presiding over parties that were approaching and in some places majority black. And they had no idea how to control (since they were white Democratic leaders) this increasingly black party, so they made a call to the corporate world for money. They reasoned that if they couldn’t control the party in the South by numbers because it was getting blacker and blacker, if they controlled strong party financial pursestrings, then they could hold on to power as Democrats the South. And those Democrats were principally Al Gore and Bill Clinton. And this was the beginning of the Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC, the corporate wing, the right wing of the Democratic Party. And Bill Clinton goes on to become the first DLC president. And we see the rightward turn of the party under him.
President Obama, irony upon ironies, is from that Bill Clinton DLC camp of the party. So of course we were not bound, we were not going to get anything of substance from the Obama presidency either. But now the Democrats need black votes desperately if they’re going to hold on to the Senate.
PERIES: Is there any strategy in place to turn out the black vote? I mean, President Obama’s 2008 election generated record numbers in terms of the turnout. It’s been dwindling ever since. Are there any new strategies out? And will it work?
FORD: Well, it is. There is the main strategy of the Democratic Party. It’s really its sole strategy, which is to whip up fear of Republicans, to scare black folks into voting in large numbers in order to keep the Republican devil folks back. That’s been especially strong since ’94 under Bill Clinton, when the Republicans did seize control of both houses of Congress and it looked to people like Bill Clinton was the only thing standing at the gates holding off the hordes. And that’s when he became quite popular with black people in that particular circumstance.
What the Democrats are doing on the ground now, since besides fear they have nothing, absolutely nothing to offer black people, is to energize their black operatives. And that includes, of course, the Congressional Black Caucus and all of the appointees that they can muster and all of the professional black election workers. And so they’re out there in black precincts doing black work from black barbershops and beauty parlors and such, in strength, with a lot of money, a lot of money behind them.
Meanwhile, the national party at the higher-profile level is doing the exact opposite, in fear that too deep an association with Obama will taint those Democrats who want to retain their seats in the Senate. So it’s a schizophrenia in the Democratic Party. It looks quite dramatic this time around because of the particularities, but that schizophrenia has always been there. And the schizophrenia is of the Obama administration, which black folks are expected to turn out in huge numbers to support or support the legacy even when he’s not running. But Obama said 100 days into his presidency that he opposed any kinds of programs that specifically targeted black people. And we remember, especially in the first term, how the Congressional Black Caucus begged and pleaded with Obama to support their favorite programs, which are social programs, and Obama did not. Instead, he went into a grand bargain with the Republicans.
And now we get to today, to this critical point where the Democrats are battling for control of at least one house of Congress, and all the Obama administration has, all the national Democratic Party has to offer is this thing called My Brother’s Keeper, which is not even a program. It is an appeal to the philanthropic instincts of corporations but not a government program at all.
And now we’re left with only one issue, in fact, which is not bread and butter, and that is voting rights. And voting rights is the only so-called black issue that the Democrats have vigorously and enthusiastically supported. But they do that because black people make up 25 percent of the Democratic Party. So supporting voting rights is not pro-black. It is pro-Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the Democrats are the main forces that vote against districting that creates districts that are too heavily black, because they want to spread black people’s votes around so that their only effect is to wind up as part of the aggregate in the Democratic column; whether the people who are elected in these watered-down districts actually represent black aspirations politically is not of concern to the Democratic Party.
So now we’re left basically with the real hardcore bottom line, and that is fear of the Republicans, that somehow that’s going to get a bigger-than-average, for midterm elections, turnout among blacks. No issues to motivate them. This time there’s not even much Obama, because we know he’s going. Black folks can’t do anything now even to preserve his legacy. I don’t see where this enthusiasm is going to come from. I guess that the New York Times headline is accurate. It’s the last stand.
PERIES: Glen, this is not unusual, probably, for a second-term, third-trimester presidency, for him to be in this kind of situation.
FORD: No, I suppose it’s not, although every trimester is not just a piece of a term. It actually occurs in a very specific point in history. And this point in history is a time when the Democratic Party has slid so far to the right that it is very difficult to raise the enthusiasm of the most partisan and supposedly enthusiastic segments of the party, and that’s black folks. As this line between Republicans and Democrats becomes fainter and fainter and disappears and all that’s left is the color of the candidate’s skin and he’s on the way out, we’re entering a new era that will also be trimestered and cut up into segments, but it will be of a different political character.
PERIES: Right. And finally, Glen, it appears that the Latin community is making similar moves in terms of threatening to stay home during this election, perhaps for similar reasons.
FORD: Yes, and not being part of the Latino community, I imagine that they are more vigorous and possibly more politically potent than we even suspect. Latinos are by all measurement, all the signs say, extremely disappointed with Obama and the Democrats is a great understatement, and there turnout probably is the real wildcard.
PERIES: And in combination, it’ll be reason to watch this election closely.
Thanks for joining us, Glen.
FORD: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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