What’s at Stake for the Black Electorate in Maryland?
Dr. Jared Ball, professor at Morgan State University and radio host, and Hassan Giordano, political analyst for Fox News Radio, discuss the black vote and the Maryland gubernatorial race
ANGEL ELLIOTT, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Angel Elliott.
The black vote has been a critical asset to Democrats in every election. But when it comes to midterms, black voter turnout has fallen woefully short compared to national election stats. According to Census Bureau data, African Americans average close to 11 percent of the national electorate in the last two midterm elections, compared with almost 13 percent of the national electorate in the last two presidential elections. The black vote has been seen as the last hope for Democrats to hold on to the Senate. And taking a closer look at a more local lens, a galvanized black vote could see Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown take the governorship over Republican Larry Hogan.
Joining us to discuss what’s at stake for the black vote this midterm election is Dr. Jared Ball and Hassan Giordano.
Dr. Ball is an associate professor of communications studies at Morgan State University. He’s an author and radio host.
Hassan Giordano is a conservative political analyst for Fox News Radio. He’s the editor-in-chief of DMVDaily.com and the former host of the radio program Reporters Roundtable.
Thanks for joining me, gentlemen.
HASSAN GIORDANO, POLITICAL ANALYST, FOX NEWS RADIO: Certainly.
JARED BALL, ASSOC. PROF. COMMUNICATION STUDIES, MORGAN STATE: Always a pleasure.
ELLIOTT: So before we delve into the ins and outs the black vote, I want to ask this question: does race matter in this race? If Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown takes the governorship, he would be the first black governor in Maryland’s history.
GIORDANO: Well, I think it certainly matters to degree, and it really depends on who you’re asking. To African Americans, absolutely it matters, but I think more so than the race of Anthony Brown or his opponent Larry Hogan is: what will the African-American community get out of Anthony Brown being the first elected African American statewide ever in Maryland history? And I think that, even in and of itself, shows the lackluster approach to African Americans in their voting patterns here in the state of Maryland.
BALL: Well, I mean, I think race matters in everything. And I think that the real question for me would be: to what extent does Anthony Brown represent any value to what would we consider the black vote. What I think is that generally these dominant party elections end up speaking against what potential power there would be for black people to use the vote and sort of suck up all that power and corral it safely into very corporate spaces that end up not being of much value to black people, or anybody else, for that matter.
So race will always matter. But having the first black this, the first black that, I think, has proven to be of little value in terms of really changing the material conditions of most black people–or anybody else again, for that matter.
ELLIOTT: Right. In a state like Maryland, where the black vote is about 30 percent of the voting electorate–and we’re a deeply blue state–the question isn’t whether blacks will vote Democrat in a state like this; it is if they’ll show up. Do you think, based off of the campaigns that you’ve seen, that blacks feel galvanized in this particular election, especially considering it’s a midterm?
BALL: Well, in general I don’t think black people are feeling thrilled about these options. I think that speaks more to the voter turnout issues as anything else.
What I would like to see is more alternative options be developed. If the vote is to be used–and I have serious doubts as to whether it could be of any value to making real change–if it is, I think black communities in this city and around the country need to revisit the tradition of radical politics and develop alternative platforms not only in terms of their demands, but where they will cast the vote. And these two parties that have locked down the vote from day one, I think, are not the option.
ELLIOTT: Let’s talk about Larry Hogan quickly. He has had a lot of poignant messaging to African-Americans. In fact, he went on a canvasing tour on North Avenue, and then he held a picnic for a majority of black people. He’s been to HBCUs in the state, Bowie State, talking about, I’m going to create jobs; under this Democratic administration we’ve lost hundred thousand jobs; the unemployment rate has gone up for young black men. Is he a better option for young black people?
GIORDANO: Well, I couldn’t say that he’s a better option than Anthony Brown. But I do think that if you look at the incentive of having a white Republican in a Democratic town, they’re going to have to almost to degree give something up in order to provide for bringing out that electorate that they want and that they’re trying to catch, which is African Americans. We’ve seen that with the Ehrlich-Steele campaigns–of course, Ehrlich being a Republican in the state of Maryland, being elected since the 1960s. And we saw that at that time. Michael Steele was the first African American to be put on a ticket statewide and actually succeed.
This time around, the tables are turned. And I think Larry Hogan and why Rutherford provide something of an alternative to all voters this time around, which is the economics, the pocketbook issues that really affect everyday people, especially African Americans. As we know, our unemployment is almost double that of the average unemployment, even nationally and statewide. So I think his outreach to African-Americans certainly provides a contrast to what the lieutenant governor has provided, which is almost nothing, other than to say that I’m the black guy that you should elect and for the first time ever. But, again, what we get out of it is up to the African-American electorate to kind of put on the table and hold them accountable, as we did the Ehrlich-Steele administration maybe 12 years, 16 years ago.
BALL: If I can, I mean, I think that’s part of the hustle, that, of course, what Hogan is doing his part of the hustle. But also what Brown has done is part of the hustle, which is, I don’t have to say anything, ’cause I’m black, and then if anything, I brought in Bill Clinton to endorse me. And for many black people, that is still the ultimate endorsement, unfortunately. And this is sort of my point about where our political standards are and where we can legitimately look for redress to the many issues that continue to plague our communities.
ELLIOTT: Right. And that’s interesting. My question that comes out of that is: why are African Americans so disenchanted when it comes to midterms? Do we not think that that is as important as electing a president?
BALL: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s just the midterms. I think we are justifiably disenchanted in general with voting. I mean, voting has proven, to me, at least, to be of little to no use at all in terms of really addressing fundamental structural inequality. I mean, you can’t vote out white supremacy. You can’t vote out capitalism and the way it’s set up from the beginning, going back to Federalist Papers and the establishment of this three-branch of government, which much unlike the myths we’re taught in school, was never meant to–was done to prevent the use of the vote to make structural change, not to ensure the protection against a monarchy. But that tradition is what I think has to be broken.
So to the extent that–and we have to look at these radical traditions. You know, Du Bois in ’56 said, I’m not voting anymore. Malcolm X said a few years later, if we’re going to use the vote, we have to do it as an organized black bloc that is going to vote for people who are going to legitimately address the concerns of our communities. And to the extent that that’s not possible, which I think is to the fullest extent, we need to look at other alternatives. So I think that the apathy is justifiable, given that when we do turn out, we still don’t get much.
ELLIOTT: Your thoughts?
GIORDANO: I.e. President Barack Obama.
GIORDANO: And I think that is that many of the frustrations–look, the African American, the potency of the vote in and of itself stretches way back way before Barack Obama. In the late 1800s, African Americans were predominantly Republicans. Ashbie Hawkins and those who were here in Baltimore were disenchanted with the Republican Party, who they felt were taking him for granted. So they said, you know what? We’re going to just stop giving you our vote; we’re going to ask for something for our vote. And so they started that movement.
But what came out of it, you still question to today. Now blacks are traditionally Democrats. Democrats have ruled Baltimore in particular and Maryland for over 50 years. You look at the school systems and the economic conditions of African Americans, and you would ask, what have you gotten out of your vote? And so I think a lot of African Americans have been disenchanted about the process in and of itself. The incentive to coming out to vote isn’t as big to them as it is other communities, which I think in and of itself is a problem. I think voting is a process, but it’s only a minute part of the overall process [incompr.] You can’t just vote and expect things to change because you voted for a particular candidate. You have to get out and be involved in your community, actively want to address the situations or the issues that you feel that are plaguing your community, and then be a part of the process in order to change the process. A lot of times people feel like, you know what? I’m just going to throw my hands up and not care at all, which I think is the wrong approach, regardless of your affiliation or regardless of your race.
ELLIOTT: Hogan is campaigning on job creations and tax cuts and creating a program in the education system where there will be after-school care. Talk to me about what policies a Republican candidate like Larry Hogan can address that will be attractive as an incentive for African Americans to come out and vote for him?
GIORDANO: Well, I think HBCUs and way the state of Maryland historically has dealt with HBCUs and the funding of HCBUs is something that neither candidate has really addressed. That is–obviously, the O’Malley administration, with Brown being a part of it, really has not addressed it. And systemically it has not been addressed in terms of the funding for these historically black colleges, universities, that don’t get the same amount of funding that white universities do in the state of Maryland. That in and of itself is a great issue that I believe that the Hogan camp kind of missed, that they missed an opportunity to really address an issue like that, employment.
But when you talk about jobs and employment, that’s such a vague issue that they haven’t really kind of touched on what they will do specifically for African Americans.
Then in Baltimore City we see a very big problem with the racial profiling from Baltimore police officers, what they’re going to do it about cameras being on–putting [them] on cops, and even further to the extent of prosecution of Baltimore City police. It’s a local issue that we’ll deal with locally but I think the governor’s going to play a big part in over the next four years.
ELLIOTT: Your thoughts?
BALL: Well, the things that I think need to happen neither candidate can really address. I mean the idea of reducing taxes, on its face, to me is absurd. The question isn’t–shouldn’t be reduction of taxes; it should be increasing taxes, particularly among the wealthiest, and then redistributing them more appropriately so that everybody benefits.
But the problem is that neither party can really do that. Neither party, despite whatever claims it makes during the campaign, can actually do that, because both parties are controlled, ultimately, by the same core elite that runs this country.
So for me it goes back to the question George Jackson was asking 40 some years ago: what good is the vote after the fact of monopoly capital? And I think this is something, I think, that has to be addressed. So to a certain extent I would agree that we have to do much more than just vote. If you vote, that can’t be the end of your political activity. Nor can a non-vote be the end of your political activity. But what I think needs to happen is that people need to be more focused on the radical traditions that have informed our communities for centuries and look for solutions there, because they’re not coming from these two major parties, and this electoral setup from jump is designed to prevent change. So I would like to see more emphasis put on other forms of protest, other forms of organization, other forms of political activity to address what I think has become just sort of this overlay, this imposition of the vote as the only means to address your concerns, which allows these two parties to dominate and represent their true constituents and their true funders, their true backers, which is why neither party has done anything of value substantively for black people, or for anybody else, for that matter.
ELLIOTT: Speaking of missed opportunity, Brown has made it very sure that he hasn’t campaigned as the black candidate. It’s obvious that he is, and he’s reached out to the African-American community, but we’ve seen that same type of tradition with Obama.
BALL: Oh, of course.
ELLIOTT: Tell me why that’s helpful or hurtful for a candidate like himself.
GIORDANO: Well, when you’re running, you’re running for–whether it’s the country or for the state, you’re running–the electorate, the predominant electorate is not African Americans, so they have to appeal to a base that what many a times would be turned off by them being the quote-unquote black candidate. We’ve seen Obama kind of master that and kind of stay away from the Travis Smileys events and others, trying to be the president of all people and not just black people. And, again, this is still a racist country, to be quite honest, and so you’re going to turn people off by being the black candidate.
And we’ve seen Anthony Brown kind of straddle that fence and almost do the same thing. But he still, again, points back to history. Yet he wasn’t supportive of Obama in his historic making in 2008. He was a supporter of Hillary Clinton. So we kind of see him straddling the fence. When he was in the House of Delegates, he didn’t even caucus with the black caucus. So it kind of shows that to some degree people don’t believe that that’s the right strategy and tactic to take, as well as you haven’t seen Larry Hogan being very outgoing about his outreach to the black community as well, because he still–again, this is a predominantly Democratic town, but it’s still very much conservative, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot of white conservative Democrats who were still afraid to vote for the first black African-American governor in the state of Maryland.
BALL: Well, but, I mean, this is sort of my point, that if you have black candidates who can’t openly, aggressively run as a black person concerned about their black communities, then, again, what is the point? So, for a black Democrat, he has the benefit of not needing to campaign to black people or promise them anything, ’cause where else are you going to go with the vote? It’s just like Obama. And, of course, we’ve been seeing this tradition for long time now of these black Trojan horse candidates, whether it’s a little bit down the road with Adrian Fenty or a little bit further up the road with Cory Booker or down south with Harold Ford or–all these candidates parade in some measure of blackness, but not openly enough in any kind of way–of course, Harold Ford was a Republican–but not in any kind of open enough way that would threaten their white constituents and their white funders in the corporations that back all of them. So this is again my point. If you can’t have a candidate coming from your community proudly claiming your community and looking to make structural changes for your community, then what’s the point? So yeah.
So I think that his blackness will automatically get him some measure of support, and to the extent that black people will vote at all, he’s of course going to get their vote. But I think this is largely a detriment to our communities and to our movements, that we can’t just be accepting any form of blackness that doesn’t claim it and doesn’t want to work with it and get excited and cast a vote. And I think Obama, I think by now, people should have realized that this was another in a long line of malicious tricks played on us, that Obama has done, more than even the white presidents before him, the bidding of the war machine and of the capitalist machine and we need to be looking critically at that and saying, well, what are we going to do now? And rather than becoming entirely apathetic and walking way, I think we need to revisit some of these radical traditions, organize around them. And then, if we return with the vote as an option, it will maybe have more substance with it than it does now.
ELLIOTT: This is my last question. Black people have been disenchanted with Obama and his administration and his run. We considered him the great black hope. I don’t know what we thought was going to happen with his election, but it was historic, and we felt like he was our candidate. Is that disenchantment going to carry over with other Democratic candidates in the future? Is it time for black people to turn towards another party?
GIORDANO: I absolutely agree. I mean, as chair of the Independent Movement, I mean, I’ve been unaffiliated since I’ve been a registered voter, ’cause I didn’t believe either party really cared about the interests of me, African-Americans, or my community. And it’s shown. If you read history and you understand it, again, we’re talking about something over and over again. It’s just–you’re just switching party labels. You have to realize that neither one–both are controlled by special interests that are always going to have the controlling hand. And when you look at President Obama, it woke black people up to say, there is no great black hope that’s going to change my conditions overnight.
And I hope for the better. I hope people realize and say, you know what? Just ’cause I have a black president or a black governor or a black mayor is not going to change my conditions. I have to start at home and change my conditions, and then outwardly be that change agent that I want to see. But don’t put all your marbles in one basket of thinking some politician like Barack Obama is going to change your conditions or your community’s conditions overnight. And I think that really woke–even going back to the civil rights days, when people fought and died for the right to vote and they fought for the Civil Rights Act and with all that stuff got done, we were still in pretty much the same conditions before the legislation. And so you saw a lot of people gravitate to the black power and the black movement to say, okay, it obviously goes beyond just politics and beyond voting in some legislation; I have to be that change. And we saw the FBI, obviously, target that to shut that down real quick. But that is the type of movement we’re going to need in order to really effect real change in our city, in our community, in our state, in our nation.
BALL: I mean, I hope so, to the extent that I understood your question; I hope black people become further disinterested or disenchanted with the Democratic Party. And I don’t mean in any way to suggest that the Republican Party is the option. I’m not suggesting that at all. I think we need to move far to the left. And just a slight correction: not all of us were in his camp from day one. I was a member of the Green Party. I ran as a candidate against him for our nomination, our presidential nomination. I supported Cindy McKinney and Rosa Clemente, which I still think was the correct use of my vote in ’08. But what I’m saying is is that I think this disenchantedness with the Democratic Party needs to go run off in a far-left direction.
My concern has been that Obama’s presence has not necessarily–that–my criticism was never that he would cause disenchantment with the Democratic Party; my concern was that he would speak against any tendency in our communities to organize along more radical formations, around more radical ideas. And to a certain extent I think that has been the case, although I think that looking back and looking back on his presidency and looking forward where we’re going now, I think many young black people in particular are more open now than before to some sort of radical concept about what we should do going forward after seeing that no real change has come to their lives in the last six going on however many years now. So that would be my hope, and that is what I think should happen. People, we need to break this two-party thing and move somewhere far to the left and really reduce our emphasis on the vote as a method of change.
Real quick, by the way, not only the people that I mentioned, but even Dr. King in his last book said almost nothing about the use of the vote. He talked all about changing our attitudes about collective economics, about our attitudes toward ourselves and our history and our culture. That is what he was calling for us to focus on, and that’s the direction in which I think we need to go.
ELLIOTT: Thanks for joining me in this discussion.
BALL: Thank you.
GIORDANO: Thanks for having me.
ELLIOTT: And thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.
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