Post-Election Black Agenda the Focus of Rainbow Push Symposium

Democrats need to pay more attention to millennial voters. The United States Senate must hire more people of color to make it more diverse.

Those were two of the many ideas and topics discussed Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the ninth annual Rainbow Push Coalition media and telecom symposium at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Northwest.

Panel discussions focused on the emotional impact of last month’s presidential election and what blacks must do to strive once Republican businessman Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States next month. Although 2½ million more voters chose Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump garnered the Electoral College votes at 306-232.

“If you win by 2½ million votes, you did something right,” said the Rev. Jessie Jackson Sr., founder of Rainbow Push, who added thatthe Electoral College wasn’t a factor when he ran for president in 1984 and 1988.

Cornell Belcher, a national Democratic pollster and president of Brilliant Corners in Northwest, reviewed some data between the 2012 and this year’s presidential elections and highlights from his new book, “A Black Man in the White House: Barack Obama and the Triggering of America’s Racial-Aversion Crisis.”

Belcher, who worked on the polling team for both Obama presidential campaigns, said that unlike in 2012, thousands of Republicans stayed the course this year.

“In the end, all those Republicans that were undecided … did exactly what Republicans do: they stick together,” he said. “One the hopeful side, we continue to grow as a browner electorate. Progressives are going to have understand that and spend … less of their time and resources chasing a shrinking, resisting market place.”

After Belcher’s presentation, the first panel session focused on post-election responses and what the black community must do.

One solution to make the federal government represent the county would be for Trump to hire blacks and Latinos, said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Northwest.

The center sent a letter last month to Trump’s transition team about the center working on a project to compile a list of qualified candidates for federal appointments. For instance, it highlighted how only 3 percent of blacks and Latinos represented the Senate in the Bush administration in 2007.

Currently, there’s only about 1 percent of head staff in the Senate, Overton said.

“We have a big problem in the United States Senate,” he said. “There’s no staff diversity. We need to hire some folks of color.”

To improve the black community overall and the future into the next election, Spencer and other panelists said it shouldn’t be strictly a Democrat or Republican issue.

Elroy Sailor, the senior adviser for Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid, agreed.

For example, Sailor said, 40 percent of politically active members in the Democratic and Republican parties can work and the other “60 percent of us need to sit and let the smart people and the people who are engaged … work our policy issues to find out where we can find common ground.”

“The electorate really needs to move from a two-dimensional way of thinking to a three-dimensional way of thinking,” he said.

The second panel began its conversation on how would the Trump presidency would help the black community.

Don Cravins Jr., senior vice president for policy in the National Urban League’s D.C. office, said the Trump agenda would create jobs through tax incentives for businesses, offer a voucher program in public education and present a monolithic approach to combating crime. But it doesn’t really fully help the black community, especially in urban areas.

Cravins outlined what’s missing.

“The plan does not talk about criminal justice reform,” he said. “The plan doesn’t talk about inclusion. It doesn’t talk about diversity. It doesn’t talk about police reform. [Trump] spends ink about protecting the Black church, which I found interesting. But didn’t spend any ink on voting rights restoration and other important issues. The plan is light in those areas.”

DeVan Hankerson, senior director for policy and government relations with Goodfriend Government Affairs in Northwest, said blacks just don’t live in urban communities. According to the 2010 Census, nearly 60 percent of blacks lived in the South.

“You have to look at where black people are … and not try to fit one solution [for] all,” she said.

But to broadcast messages geared toward the black community, the means remain limited.

Neosho Ponder, an adjunct professor at Howard University in Northwest, said people of color own about 7 percent of radio stations and 3 percent of television stations.

“When you look at those numbers, it’s still not representative of the population,” she said. “You want to make sure that those people who are in power to make decisions are people of color.”

A final discussion centered on what to expect in the technology sector when Trump begins his four-year term next month.

Jackson asked those in audience to repeat these words on having control in the technology and media industries: “He who owns, owns.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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