Vote Yes or No

    When I read and hear of all the despair about the current situation in the United States expressed by Progressives, I often wonder why I'm not equally depressed. I find comfort when I read polls that note that despite the economic hardships present in the country today, African-Americans remain optimistic about the future. In a Washington Post poll cited by Ellis Cose in a "The Daily Beast" column on May 22, 2011 notes that 60% of African-Americans polled felt that their children would have a better standard of living. Only 36% of Whites believe that their children will have a better standard of living. African-Americans are optimists.

    African-Americans, in general, are not in the same political grouping as the folks at Black Agenda Report or even Cornel West. Blacks are not about to run Barack Obama out on a rail. There is no great call for sitting out the election of 2012 because of disappointment in Barack Obama’s Progressive agenda in the Black community.

    At last week's Netroot Nation conference, a panel consisting of members of the Black Netroots participated in a discussion titled "Do It Again" that focused on getting the vote out in the African-American community to reelect Barack Obama and Democratic candidates. The video shows that despite any disappointment they may have in the President, there was a clear recognition by the panelists that the opposition is much worse. The emphasis on the panel was to focus on accomplishments that the Obama administration had made in areas that impacted Black people. The panelists also recognized the clear and present danger that the Black community faces from Republican attempts to suppress minority voting.

    A blogger at FireDogLake posted an opinion critical of the emphasis on getting out the vote, rather than railing against the failure of the Obama ministration in addressing Progressive issues. The blog post titled “NN11 Young Voter Turnout Session-How Do You Convince Someone That They're Better Off Despite Their Lying Eyes.” The blogger said the following:

    High (One of the Black Net Roots panelists) even floated the most ludicrous idea I’ve heard so far at this conference. At one point she complained about people not seeing local, state and federal politics as an interconnected web, and actually used the term “trickle down” to describe how the connections between the different levels of government work together. She suggests a public education campaign to show people how interconnected the levels of government are.

    I can’t think of a worse idea than to convince people to associate all politics with the cesspool of failure, corruption, faux liberalism and Galtian nonsense that is politics at the federal level. That’s essentially telling people to completely give up. Even the most ignorant Southern redneck knows that you can’t count on the federal government for anything, so why would anyone want to conflate state and local politics, where some progress is possible, with federal politics? If there is a quicker way to get people to check out even more I’m sure Obama will find it, but imagining that is beyond my consciousness.

    The blog post’s sentiment was supported by the majority of the responses on FireDogLake. The idea appears to be that not voting or voting for a third-party candidate is superior to voting for Barack Obama.

    Another Black Netroots panelist, Judy Lubin responded to the FireDogLake blog with:

    Really? Must we be reminded of state attorneys general attempts to block implementation of health reform? A civic lesson may in fact be in order. More concerning however, is that the author essentially exerts a pro-state’s rights argument in a discussion of black voter enfranchisement. This is especially worrisome as more states move to pass voter identification laws and limit the widely popular early voting options that have proven effective in turning out urban and black voters. Without federal involvement and protections, minorities would have little recourse against these blatant attempts to limit their political participation.

    An African American blogger at Balloon Juice who describes herself as "disenfranchised, underemployed, perennially broke, nearly homeless, African-American female summarize the situation of the black voter as follows:

    “Happily, within our community, we’re oddly happy with the President, pissed at Republicans, pissed at Democrats, considering a 3rd party but only as a fantasy football thing and concerned about voting rights.”

    One effect of the Black Netroots segment at the Netroot Nations conference last week was to remind yourself that you could still consider yourself Progressive despite your Obama support. Another effect is to point out the differences in optimism among blacks and whites. Blacks have a much more positive view of Obama and the country than most whites. Blacks also are more optimistic about the future than many whites. Ellis Cose who wrote "The Rage of the Privileged Class" which detailed the anger many upper-class blacks felt about their ability to move up the food chain of work because of racial bias, has now written "The End of Anger" which points out that the newer generation of blacks in the work force, have a positive outlook when their ability to advance up the ranks at work than did the previous generation.

    Once the Republican wingnut gets chosen and there is a clear choice, Blacks will likely show up at the pols in numbers needed to offset Progressive malaise. Small donations to the Obama campaign have increased, so perhaps not everyone is going to stay at home in 2012.

    Video of the Black Netroots panel discussion can be found at the link below


    It seems way, way too early for this.  Get out the vote calls????   We have at least a year to focus on pressuring, encouraging, motivating, stimulating or just plain scaring the Obama administration into moving in a more progressive direction, and making sure that if Obama is elected in 2012 his next administration emobodies a much more determinedly progressive ethos than his current gang of short-sighted, out-to-lunch mediocrities.  We can also do a lot to make progressive ideas are a big part of the primary campaign and next fall's re-election campaign.

    By jumping up and down with enthusiasm, you only disempower yourself.  If you are not someone Obama thinks he needs to court, then he is only going to stick you in his pocket and forget about you.

    I think these guys have a much better approach:

    The folks in the videos are taking action now, aren't they?

    Yes, but they do not appear to be taking "get out the vote" action.

    How do you plan to stop the GOP plan to suppress Black votes without having voting out Republicans as part of the plan?

    I think it's always time to encourage Afro-Americans to get interested in voting religiously.. Too many before 2008 didn't find it worthwhle to do so, even though a lot of blood was shed for that right.

    I think the actions that Republican legislators across the nation are actively taking right now to suppress voting in minority communities. The only way to stop this is through educating the public and voting to boot Republicans out of office.

    I do think the the history of the fight Blacks had to fight to gain voting rights makes it less likely hat Blacks will waste a vote on some third party to make a point. Al Sharpton got trounced in a race against Bill Bradley in NYC by Black voters.

    I do find it freaky sometimes how many netroots supporters of theoretical big Federal government spend a great deal of their time complaining on blogs about the big Federal government and DC, with nary a good thing to say about it.  It does make me wonder where all the theoretical replacements that would run the most excellent ever theoretical big Federal government are supposed to come from.

    I dunno, Lamont.  I believe in big, constructive government programs but, as a liberal, I don't believe in coercion and authoritarianism.  Some government programs, particularly related to law enforcement and homeland security, simply go too far.  I think that social libertarianism is a progresive ideal.  It's difficult to pursue those aims without criticizing the federal government.

    Your premise confuses 2 things: optimism about the future and happiness with current policy.

    If I were black, I'd sure be happy there was a black president, and would likely do anything I could not to crap in the corner, short of the president burning people at the stake.

    Whatever the performance, having a black president is a huge breakthrough symbolically for the future of race relations in the US. But like the end of segregation in the military, or the 13-15 Amendments and end of Civil War, it doesn't mean things will be hunky dory next week.

    Official national unemployment among blacks is 16%, but that's only part of the story. Black male unemployment in Wisconsin is 34%. Black teen unemployment is 40%. Certainly I'd bet that it won't get worse.

    The steady move towards marijuana decriminalization is likely as important as any other black-affecting policy, especially California and New York. (Connecticut most recent, while Mississippi is one surprising member of the list). The recent bill to kill the federal war on marijuana would be a God-send for the black community, as pot has been used as a trivial reason to incarcerate more than a million blacks and have them under the thumb of the legal system. Worse, it drastically limits opportunity throughout the black community.

    Despite campaign rhetoric riding both sides of the fence, unsurprisingly, Obama isn't pushing this issue, and laughed/scorned down questioners about his marijuana policy, and until recently was continuing federal raids for marijuana even where states had approved medical marijuana laws (e.g. California and Washington).

    Another issue that's all but lost is that mortgage foreclosures have hit black community hard. Heavy increase in black home ownership was one of the breakthroughs in the 1990's, likely having a good effect on the black crime rate as well. Official figures put black home loss at 8% between 2007 and 2009, with anecdotal evidence placing it as much higher. As a major focus of home savings, these losses are a big threat to long-term stability in black communities, and can threaten to bring back the devastating crime rates in past years.

    In any case, where blacks hit a grand-slam with Obama in terms of acceptance and visibility, progress in politics is a lot like baseball - better measured in singles and walks, fielding and a solid bullpen. Much of Civil Rights success was accomplished by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP in legal tests and court cases in the 40's and 50's, long before MLK became a known figure or the Black Panthers hit the streets.

    In the case of 2011, having solid farm teams of black legislators and judges is more important for blacks' future than who's in the White House. Rather than "Get Out the Vote", the time is ripe for "Get Out the Black Candidates", and get them the funding they need to run solid races against entrenched monied incumbents.

    Aside from Obama's example as a black president, his example as a fund-raiser/organizer is probably more important for black interests in Congress and state legislatures. Internet organizing via social media can greatly extend the campaign buck over traditional campaigning, and on-line video can go viral without heavy TV spending.

    However, as black turnout at the polls often lags turnout for other demographics, a successful campaign has to recognize both convincing people that policies are advantageous, it has to make sure that people want to and can show up to vote - including making sure polling stations are in the right place, often times arranging transportation, getting write-in ballots destributed, filled out correctly and sent in on time. Also means fighting anti-black polling restrictions such as the disruptive ID laws and the voting misinformation commonly sent out around election time.

    In summary, I'd say focus on Obama is a big distraction for the black community, even though I don't think his policies have helped it at all. Focus on building up a 20-year presence at all levels of government, and then maybe black-friendly policies will make it to the top of the Democrats' real agenda once in office.

    I'm not surprised that you think that I'm confused. I suppose that Judy Lubin, the Black Netroots panelists and a host of other African-Americans are also confused. It's typical Progressive "Let me tell you how you should view this issue" condescension.

    If you were Black.......... You should hear how you talk.

    I don't see how you assume that getting Blacks elected to city and state legislatures as well as Congress is not being addressed. If you read my post it was the FDL Progressive blogger who felt that paying attention to local politics was a waste of time. Lubin specifically counters that viewpoint.

    Your statement that

    However, as black turnout at the polls often lags turnout for other demographics, a successful campaign has to recognize both convincing people that policies are advantageous, it has to make sure that people want to and can show up to vote - including making sure polling stations are in the right place, often times arranging transportation, getting write-in ballots distributed, filled out correctly and sent in on time. Also means fighting anti-black polling restrictions such as the disruptive ID laws and the voting misinformation commonly sent out around election time.

    Is identical to with what the Black Netroots panelists discussed.

    I'm not sure what you're arguing about. Addressing local as well as state and national legislative elections is what GOTV is all about. It's also about combating voter suppression activity.

    Here's a link to actions by Republicans in Maryland trying to suppress Black voter turnout during the 2010 election by using robocalls. It has led to an indictment.

    The Republicans are already engaged in battle.

    Here's some data showing how community organizers actually increased African-American voting percentage in several states. Again this supports the Black Netroots panel.

    No, it doesn't support the Black Netroots panel by itself.

    Of course blacks are more likely to feel that voting helps in 2010 than 2006 when 2008 brought a black president, along with a huge escalation of black voting initiatives.

    That high is likely to last for quite some time, not that I'm completely dismissing personal contact by campaign workers in  runup to 2010.

    But 2012 is another 2 years down the line - message is a 2nd time rehab of, "GOP sucks more than we do"? That'll wow 'em in Poughkeepsie.

    Voting turnout increased in places that had engaged community activists. But you are not dismissing the impact of activists, you are simply not completely dismissing community activists. ??????


    I don't dismiss that community activists have impact, nor do I dismiss that the results of the 2008 election and organizing efforts were still being felt in 2010, with all that Yes We Can energy.

    We'll see how long Democrats can keep up the energy flogging an empty message.

    Yes, you're confused.

    Of course blacks face a lot less discrimination than they used to, and despite some counter efforts like GOP on minority voting, that trend is almost certainly going to continue.

    The biggest barrier to blacks voting is not GOP efforts at vote suppression, which lops off maybe a few percent.

    It's the inability of black candidates to get meaningful progress on key issues to get blacks to the polls.

    Judy Lubin ignores that it's at state level that gay marriage has had the most success, it's at the state level that marijuana decriminalization is taking hold. By the time the federal government stuffs everything into huge omnibus bills, it's pretty hard to have your pet issue unless you have a lot of friends and bucks in Washington.

    And as the netroots activist noted, the federal level is full of the Michelle Bachman, John Boehner Tea Partyism that makes politics so nauseous these days, not that governships in Wisconsin and Arizona haven't adopted a large portion of this shrill.

    The "get out the vote" as that author noted, rests on "educate people about accomplishments" vs. his/her impression that "IF PEOPLE CANNOT SEE THE CHANGE IN THEIR LIVES, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CONVINCE THEM IT’S THERE".

    With local black male unemployment up to 40%, what Obama accomplishments are we going to educate people about? With 47,000 troops plus double contractors still in Iraq, and 2x the number of troops in Afghanistan from when Obama entered office, are we going to educate black voters on the successful war-mongering of the current administration?

    Will we educate them that likely health reform with its delayed start until 2014 might even still exist by then?

    Will we educate blacks that while Obama hinted at drug reform before the election, he still might turn around and do something about it if forced to?

    What will the message be for blacks who've lost their homes to mortgage sharks, with the administration blandly supporting the banks?

    I tell you what - if you're so smart and it's oh so easy, why don't you start by educating me. Or pretend I'm an average Mississippi or Ohio or Connecticut or Texas or Washington black voter. What's the up-side to the Obama presidency?

    One peachy optimistic note at is all about how to enlist Hollywood types and such to glitz up the message - but no message about what's actually being done.

    It's all personality. Very strange.


    You simply cannot relate to the Black experience. Many Blacks have a much different view of where things stand than you. Blacks think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You see the light as the headlights of a locomotive.

    You have the arrogance to tell Blacks how they should feel about a given issue, but you are unable to connect with how Blacks actually feel.

    You feel that Blacks simply have to want t stay home in 2012, so you reject data that says how community organizers impacted African-American turnout in 2010.

    You feel that Blacks need to have more Black legislators elected at all levels, but when people talk about getting out the vote you alternately reject then support it. It's OK as long as Obama doesn't benefit.

    You are so biased against Obama that you can't recognize how jumbled you thought process has become.

    It's  not about You. Black voters will make up their own minds, while you sit on the sidelines in despair.

    No are not qualified to speak on the Black experiece or tell tell Black people how they should feel. They simply don't care about You.

    You wouldn't acknowledge arrogance if you *could* hold onto that mirror. "You simply cannot relate to the Black experience". Jesus.

    I didn't say "blacks have to want to stay home in 2012" - I said they should pressure Obama to get something black-friendly done. I've repeated this umpteen times.

    I don't reject "getting out the vote" but it's hard to get out the vote with the same limp message that lost Dems big in 2010: "Vote Dem: we suck less than the GOP". Having a black candidate that's improving the lives of black people is a more attractive message than "come vote, it's a black candidate and the white GOP candidate will be worse".

    Blacks will certainly make up their own minds. You think however that because you're black you can imagine the wishes of all black voters, that you have mental mind meld that whitey will never have. Lovely.

    Regarding "sit on the sidelines in despair" I never told you what I would do, did I? I didn't toss my hat in the ring, nor did I say I wouldn't support a primary candidate against Obama, I didn't say whether I'd push to get a better Democratic platform despite Obama's wishes, I didn't say whether I'd support a Republican or 3rd party candidate, I didn't say whatever. I simply said, "pressure Obama now so we have a message in Nov 2012". So knock it off, Mr. Brain Reader.

    16% black unemployment. Up to 32% black male unemployment in some cities. When will you address some economic issues? Since you know the minds of all black people, please tell me if they stopped caring about a paycheck to take home?

    You have given me your opinion. I gave you the Black Netroot panel with video, Ellis Cose's comments, links to Judy Lubin one of the Black Netroots panels who commented on an FDL post. In addition I gave you a links to an article supporting the role of community activiss in increasing African-American turnout in 2010.

    You have given me some links to Obama criticism.

    If you viewed the Black Netroots panel and read the Ballooon Juice commentor, you would realize that with a Republican Party that is actively working to suppress Black votes, "We Suck Less Than The GOP" is a powerful message. You cannot comprehend how ab=ngry the Black voter is about voter suppression and Obama having to produce his birth cetificate. The GOP brand is severely damaged in the Black community. A high priority is to get rid of those SOBs FIRST.

    You simply cannot comprehend the mood of the African-American voter.

    By the way, I don't use the term whitey, except for the octogenarian Boston Mafia murder and the old time Yankees pitcher.


    I gave you facts and figures. You gave me opinion.

    I'm wallowing in bland missives of self-righteousness.

    But yes, you did actually answer one question - to you, "We suck less than the GOP" is good enough for a 2nd campaign, despite historic losses in 2010. Go get 'em, tiger.

    I don't care whether you use the term "whitey" or whatever - I care whether you say stupid shit like "You simply cannot relate to the Black experience" or "You simply cannot comprehend the mood of the African-American voter."

    Are Black people Martians with 3 lungs and reversed cerebrums? All these years I've been talking with Black people and they were speaking Urdu and I was speaking Tagalog, but we didn't notice or they were too polite to say? Too bizarre.

    Once again you degenerate into profanity. I don't think that voting against a wretched Party like the GOP is a bad thing. You somhow feel that this beneath you. It is likely that if you vote, you will come to the same conclusion. You will simply be too arrogant to admit what you are doing.

    I do not think that you can relate to the Black experience. If anyone is the Martian here, it is you. You are remarkably tone deaf (If I were Black..........)

    "You are remarkably tone deaf (If I were Black..........)"

    So MLK is allowed to dream and wonder, white people are just to take a dull statist view of reality and leave any pondering of how others might feel to them.

    That's certainly a more profane concept than a little curse word, and it makes you awfully shallow. The world is a better place for people figuring out the needs and worries of others and figuring out what was shared and what differences remained.

    Otherwise you end up with quaint colonial attitudes like "Asians don't need western-style democracty, they need a strong arm".

    Other than Black Agenda Report and Black Republican websites, do you see large pockets of African-American voters sharing your viewpoint in 2012 if community activists become engaged as they were in several states in the 2010 midterms?

    If you can't figure out why African-Americans might hate Republicans in higher numbers than they are disappointed by the Democrats, You may not be able to relate to the Black experience.

    If you think Skip Gates was way out of line, You may not be able to relate to the Black experience.

    If you are not enraged by the Republican attempts to suppress the Black vote, You may note be able to relate to the Black experience.

    If you think that Obama having to show his citizenship papers was not an affront, You may not be able to relate to the Black experience.

    If you think that the South left the Union for State's rights issues, You may not be able to relate to the Black experience.

    If you think that the voter suppression and the Obama birth certificate, etc are overblown, You may be a Black Republican :)

    Thank you for the black empathy litmus test. I'll look it over with some of my closest black friends™ and see how I score.


    Your closest Black friends


    Thanks for providing some much needed humor


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