The Black Vote Is Crucial

Both candidates are reaching for the swing votes that lie within the black community

and that blacks comprised only 4.1% of the delegates in attendance at the convention. The Democratic National Convention had 101 black convention committee members, and 20.1% of the delegates at the convention were black.

How this unprecedented attention will impact African Americans “depends on us,” says Alvin Williams, executive director of the conservative Black America’s Political Action Committee. “How the Republican Party deals with us depends on how we engage them, which is why we must be involved with both parties. There will have to be a spirit of openness and inclusiveness on both sides. We have to make sure we’re a part of all the teams, be more objective and open-minded, and make decisions based on issues as opposed to parties.”

In direct contrast, CBC Foundation Chairperson Eva Clayton, D-N.C., believes “the Democrats are our only salvation,” as she remarked at a press conference during the Democratic convention.

At the nonpartisan Tavis Smiley symposium, “Advocacy in the Next Millennium,” held the Saturday before the Democratic National Convention, leaders expressed their dissatisfaction with Gore, but none expressed support for Bush. Harvard University Professor Cornell West made it clear that he wanted Gore to show more respect to the African American community. But, when asked, “Should African Americans look to Bush at all?” West emphatically replied, “Oh, no.”

C. Adrienne Rhodes, a black Republican who hopes to oust Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., from her seat in Congress, believes “the Republicans have a great opportunity to attract more minority voters this year and in future years.”

According to Rhodes, there is a large group of young professionals out there who share the Republican Party’s philosophy of individual responsibility.

According to a Joint Center report, Rhodes may be on to something (see “What’s Your Vote?” Newspoints, October 2000). In recent years, the report states, “Fewer young African Americans have identified with the Democratic Party than in the past.” While they are not running in droves to the GOP, the report states, “A sizable portion of them is sympathetic to the GOP’s position on a significant number of important policy issues.”

“While strong partisans on both sides are enthusiastic for their respective presidential candidates, there are few signs that the public comprising the political center is as enthusiastic as the partisans,” according to studies by the Joint Center.

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