Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Democrats' midterm strategy fueled black voters' distrust of the Party

“Black folk generally do not trust the police, the media, or politicians.”

Every Tom, Dick, and Harry have an analysis as to why the GOP won the midterm with a 37% turnout of primarily white men and older white voters, which is the historical norm for likely voters in a midterm election. Theories range from the GOP’s ground game, Democratic voter apathy and lazy voters, GOP voter suppression tactics, historical low voter turnout, and of course, Americans (meaning white folk) rejected the black guy in the White House and his policies.

Gracious and responsible as always, President Obama shouldered the blame for the losses, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairman of the DNC, was way too happy to let him. The woman has no shame. She hasn’t even bothered to own up to the role she played in Democratic losses, like her embarrassing performance on MSNBC and what Politico billed as a behind the scene look at her leadership style.

President Obama does not deserve the blame unless he personally devised the ill-fated strategy to downplay his own successes in the economy, energy, environment, foreign policy, healthcare, and manufacturing; unless he advised Democrats to avoid him like he was infected with Ebola and alienate black voters and other staunch supporters in the process; and unless he personally told voters to listen to the negativity in the media and let cynicism and distrust of politicians keep them from voting. Only then can he be blamed for the losses.

The Democrats’ defeat can be penned on the individual candidates themselves, chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Committee Conference (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Committee Conference (DSCC), and the political strategists they paid to come up with their brilliant plan. Their strategy resulted in the demise of the Democratic majority in the Senate, a larger GOP majority in the House of Representatives; an increase in Republican governors, a demoralizing defeat for the base, and it brought embarrassment to our Democratic president. The Republicans’ deep money pockets did not defeat the Democrats, their own stupidity did, and their strategy fueled black voters’ distrust of the Party.

It is a distrust that has seethed beneath the surface for a long time, and the Democrats made a fatal error in judgment when they devised a strategy to distance themselves from the most highly successful Democratic president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Barack Obama is a biracial black man with three Muslim names who successfully beat Republicans like a drum in two highly contested presidential elections. His approval rating is still high amongst Democrats and he has an impressive and historic list of accomplishments. However, the DNC’s strategy was to focus on getting votes from the typical midterm voting block of older white people, which historically do not vote for Democrats. 

For Democrats to win those white voters, that meant they had to betray their own president because older white people are less accepting of America’s diversity and idea of a fairer and more equal society. They view President Obama as a thorn in the butt of progress that Conservatives made in keeping America unequal. Some older white people can’t even stand to see black folk on television more less a black man in the White House as President and not as the butler. “I don’t understand why the n**gers have to be on TV?” Those exact words came from the mouth of one of my girlfriend’s 90-year-old Republican mother-in-law.

Black folk’s disdain for the Democratic Party is worse than it has ever been. For many blacks, a strategy to denounce the black president in order to get white votes that were not going to vote for Democrats anyway was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Democratic Midterm Candidates: If you’re white stick around, if you’re black get back.

Senatorial candidate Alison Grimes of Kentucky became the face of the Democratic strategy. She was a delegate for Barack Obama 2008 election but repeatedly refused to say whether she voted for him. It was an incredible display of cowardice and disrespect.  Before that fiasco, which many of us believed at the time put a nail in her political coffin; Grimes stood with Bill Clinton and boldly declared very loudly that she was a “Clinton Democrat.” She ran ads declaring “I am not Barack Obama.”

Grimes’ strategy was to throw Barack Obama under a moving freight train carrying toxic waste as proof to white Kentuckians that she wasn’t down with the black guy. She didn’t give a damn if it alienated black voters because political pollsters and strategists don’t view blacks as likely voters anyway in midterm elections, so who cares what the Negroes say. Grimes created a firestorm of criticism on Twitter not only against her but also against the Clintons and the Democratic Party for going along with it.

How could Democrats count on her vote for anything President Obama proposed? She surely would not have allowed her photograph to be taken shaking his hand or simply standing next to him. Not surprising to many of us that she lost her election. In fact, Grimes got 584,622 votes and President Obama got 679,370 votes in 2012. She alienated about 95,000 likely voters. I looked up the definitions of foolish and ill-advised in the dictionary and all I got was ‘See Alison Grimes’.

Grimes seemed perfectly content employing her strategy of dividing the base, and it was not lost on black folk that Bill and Hillary Clinton basked in the limelight standing next to her, waving to an adoring crowd of mostly white people in support of a Democratic candidate whose campaign strategy was to pretend: ‘I don’t know who that black guy is in the White House or where he came from.’  

It was in your face and downright nasty the way Grimes expressed her seemingly contempt for all-things Barack Obama. The woman never had a positive thing to say about him. But, we have to give credit where credit is due. Grimes followed what many of us perceived as the DNC’s playbook for all Democratic candidates in so-called red states. It went something like this: ‘placate to the anti-Obama white voters in the Party by pissing on the black president in public so all the white folk can see you do it and they’ll trust you more. Just pretend that he doesn’t exist. Don’t defend him, just go along with whatever foul sh*t they say about him.

It sounds cold and harsh indeed, but that’s exactly how it felt to black folk. The Democrats’ midterm strategy of distancing themselves from President Obama only served to fuel black voters’ distrust of the Party, and the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC have a much bigger problem on their hands than turnout.

To add insult to injury, as I mentioned earlier, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee went on MSNBC and had to be goaded into even mentioning our Democratic president’s name. She stuck to some lame talking point and refused to give President Obama any credit for the Country's economic successes by suggesting the Democrats in the Senate did it all by themselves. Democratic voters were angry and dismayed that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the DNC, did not, would not even defend President Obama.

Wasserman Schultz's actions and that of other Democratic candidates were all some black and white voters needed to justify sitting out the election. I could not help but think about the black man in Atlanta that I encountered in 2010. He probably said, “See…I told you that you can’t trust these white politicians.” I had one friend to tell me that he didn’t vote (, and he ALWAYS had before,) because it was no way he would support anyone who treated President Obama like that. Quote unquote. He was unapologetic about it.

How can you make sure 10 million Americans have healthcare, some for the very first time, and have no national outreach to inspire and encourage them to vote in order to save their healthcare coverage and subsidies to pay for it?

After all of the hard work we did to get those reforms passed then to have Democrats not defend the progress that we have made in the last six years was highly insulting and offensive. But I, like many others, voted anyway because we wanted President Obama to get his agenda through Congress in his last two years.

Black folk generally do not trust the police, the media, or politicians. They use their distrust of these institutions as an excuse (, or for some a reason,) why they don’t watch the news and why they don’t vote. When talking to people in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi after the election about why more black folk in their states didn’t turn out to vote on Tuesday, I heard repeatedly, “They don’t trust these damn white politicians. It’s like pulling teeth trying to get them to vote.” 

Older black folk are loyal to the Democratic Party and vote for Democratic candidates even if they have to hold their noses to do so. However, some black voters feel perfectly fine sitting out an election because of perceived distrust of the politicians on the ballot. Most black folk simply will not vote for politicians they do not trust.

I have told this story in part before, but the Democratic ill-advised strategy must have certainly justified this black man’s distrust of white politicians.

In 2010, while canvassing in the Atlanta area for the midterm election, I came upon a black man who voted for President Obama and held him in high esteem. However, he was adamant that he would not vote for a white politician. He declared, very frankly, “I ain’t voting for no white dude.”

To say that I was stunned is an understatement. “But President Obama needs your help,” I said, trying to convince him to change his thinking. “He can’t get his agenda through if Republicans take over.”

“Oh, I’ll vote for the brotha, he replied, “but I ain’t voting for no white dude, sistah.”

“But the “brotha” is not on the ballot, the white politicians who will help him are on the ballot.”

“Yeah, I hear you sistah, but you can’t trust these white politicians especially down here in Georgia. They say one thing and do another. They don’t care about blacks down here. They just think all we want is welfare and food stamps. Hell, I work sometimes 50 hours a week. I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. He went on to say, “I got principles. I can’t be voting for no politicians when I know they’re just lying right in your face and saying stuff to get in office then once in there, they don’t do a damn thing.”

We can debate whether he should have disregarded his “principles” and voted anyway for the greater good or that I should have argued more vigorously to get him to change his mind, but I had not engaged a so-called lazy voter. He was very clear about why he wasn’t going to vote, and unfortunately, his thinking is pervasive amongst many blacks who are very straightforward in telling you they don’t trust white politicians.  

GOP voters vs. Democratic voters

Democrats are not like Republicans when it comes to voting. GOP voters would vote for the animated character “Dumbo the Elephant” if they were convinced that he could win because they want power more than anything else. They don’t care if the candidate is a bigot, homophobe, misogynist, racist, qualified or unqualified, dumb or stupid. They have one criterion for their candidates: Can they beat the Democrats?

Democratic voters are much more principled when it comes to voting, some might say to a fault, and will support politicians they trust, those that will stand by his or her word. However, they will not vote just as a show of loyalty to the Party or just to say Democrats beat Republicans. They see power in being a courageous fighter, honest, and trustworthy.

The Obama Winning Strategy

President Obama inspired voters of all stripes (black folk, young people, first time voters, Asians, Hispanics, single white women) to see his vision of America as a more equal society and more tolerant of diversities. He encouraged Democratic voters and gave them a reason to vote. He motivated them to stand and take matters into their own hands. He won their trust and they followed him. He didn’t play ‘chicken little the sky is falling’ with them. His message was uplifting, optimistic, and positive. He told voters repeatedly that it would be hard. He warned them here would be “setbacks” and “false starts” and asked for their patience. As a result, he had two successful and historic elections. Unfortunately, the 2014 losing Democratic candidates did not give Democratic voters enough of a reason to vote.
 
President Obama changed the game about how to drive the Democratic base to the polls.  Unless leaders of the DNC, DCCC, DSCC  and other Democratic organizations and political strategists adopt The Obama Winning Strategy of inspire, encourage, motivate, and win their trust, Democrats will continue to lose elections, which is something the Country cannot afford because ALL Americans regardless of party affiliation, gender, race or station in life benefit greatly from Democratic policies.

That's my yada yada and I’m sticking to it!