By James Clingman
After the “Tuesday Evening Massacre” of the Elephants over the Donkeys, in January 2009, I wrote an article that warned about our being complacent and resting on the mere fact that we had elected a Black president. I suggested that we should get busy right away doing the commensurate work it would surely take for us to get something more for our votes than just a good feeling about “making history.” Obviously, we failed in that regard, and now we are crying about the massacre that took place on November 4.
As far back as 2006, I have warned against our complacency and settling for an emotional victory rather than a substantive victory. Now, we have very little, if anything, to show for our record turnout of 2008 and 2012. And that’s because we failed to act appropriately on the morning after those elections.
My article, “When Elephants and Donkeys Fight,” was based on an African proverb: “When elephants fight, the grass suffers.” November 4 was a graphic illustration of that reality for us, the grassroots. And for the next two years the elephants and donkeys will continue to fight and we will continue to suffer. Why? Because we have no clout with either party, we have no say-so about what happens to us.
Black voters have been lulled to sleep by patronizing gestures and platitudes from politicians who only want and know they will always receive our votes. They also know that we will not leverage our votes against them nor make demands on them in exchange for our votes. They know all we want to do is vote, and then we will go home and await the next election.
When the donkeys won, they did not move us to the front of the reciprocity line. They did not acknowledge us by putting forth specific legislation to benefit Black voters. They did not show their appreciation by spending more with our media during their 2012 campaign. No, they needed our votes, which we gave so generously in prior years, but they refused to reciprocate in any meaningful way. Now the donkeys are blaming us for their defeat, saying “too few” of us voted.
Is it really our fault? Are we the reason many of us are crying about the results of the last election? Are we, the Black electorate, and the political talking-heads whom we follow, the reasons we will likely spend the next two years in political purgatory? Maybe so, but the real question is: If we got nothing during the first two years of the Obama administration, when the donkeys controlled both chamber, what would make any of us believe we will get anything during the next two years? Maybe this is the slap upside our heads that will make us change the way we play politics.
Here is a solution. Theodore Johnson III wrote an article in the Atlantic magazine titled, “Black America Needs its own President” (September 5, 2014) in which he stated, “The call for a President of Black America may, at first blush, sound odd…But Black America is about 45 million people strong and has buying power of just over a trillion dollars… an economy roughly equivalent to Portugal’s and a population that is about the same as Spain’s. That should translate to a significant amount of economic and political power. But without a leader to marshal this capital, we’re treated like a subcultural afterthought…”
Johnson continued, “Of course, the President of Black America is just a symbolic label, not an elected position. But it needn’t be. After all, who elected Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and King to be the personification of Black America in their respective eras? He or she would carry a big stick, and that big stick would be the marshaling of the Black electorate and Black purchasing power…the Black American economy sustains numerous businesses and products across the nation; no dollarleaves a community faster than the Black dollar. This is unfortunate, but it is also leverage.”
Interestingly enough, a group formed in 2007 devised a plan for a President of Black America, which we called the “POBA.” Unfortunately, Black folks decided to take another nap when it looked like Barack Obama would be elected as the POTUS, and our plan was shelved. In light of Johnson’s article and our previous attempt, now is the time to revive the POBA idea.
This is a call for one million conscious Black voters to join the POBA movement. These voters/consumers will use our leverage to positively impact political outcomes and the Black economy, locally and nationally. If you want to be “One in a Million,” contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, Blackonomics.com.