Kimberlin Love Makes The Case For Al Gore
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Deputy Press Secretary Kimberlin Love granted BlackElectorate.com an exclusive interview regarding why Al Gore should become the next president of the United States. Ms. Love is a Black female who has spent years working with elected officials, the Black community and members of the "mainstream" and Black media. She represents a unique perspective among many who support the Gore-Lieberman ticket and provides a window into the mind and heart of Al Gore particularly for those undecided voters who are weighing their voting options for next Tuesday's elections.
BlackElectorate.com will make an editorial endorsement for a candidate for president next Monday.
Here is our Q&A with DNC Deputy Press Secretary Kimberlin Love:
CM: What are the three most important reasons why Blacks should vote for Al Gore?
Kimberlin Love: I think that the most important thing to acknowledge when discussing Al Gore and African Americans is that his support is not a new found commitment to this community and its issues. His commitment to African Americans is not an election night conversion based on getting votes. Al Gore's dedication to African Americans and Civil Rights is a deeply personal one.
As a young man he watched his father, a southern Senator, fight the battles of his day: against the poll tax, for voting rights, and against the hateful Southern Manifesto that opposed integration in our schools. His father lost his last election because of those stands and it has taught him a lot about what counts and what it truly important.
But, to answer your question directly, the three most important things African Americans have to gain by voting for Al Gore is better education for their children, better choices for their families and better opportunities for the community.
For more than 24 years Al Gore has worked with Democratic leaders in Congress and across the country to create and improve opportunities for African Americans. He has worked to expand investment in African American businesses and communities through the Empowerment Zones, fought for needed investments in educational programs, worked to improve enforcement of civil rights laws, promoted stronger families, and advocated new measures to help reduce crime in our communities.
In fact, under the stewardship of this current Administration, the unemployment rate for African Americans went down last month for the first time in history. That in and of itself speaks volumes to the improvements being made in the African American community because of this Administration. or the first time we have a government that looks like America.
This Administration has appointed more African American Cabinet Secretary's in history, we have named 14 African Americans as U.S. Attorneys and 12 African Americans as U.S. Marshals, and have nominated 57 African Americans to the Federal bench. This Administration has fought against Republicans to increase the minimum wage...the first step toward giving African American families the resources they need to live better lives and build better communities.
Throughout this election, the Republican Party has provided "visuals" of diversity, but close scrutiny of their policies reveals an image for the African American community that is less than diverse.
Al Gore believes that we need a strong law to prevent and punish crimes of hate--George Bush does not.
Al Gore believes that we need an executive order ending the practice of racial profiling in America--George Bush does not.
Al Gore believes this nation still needs affirmative action--George Bush does not.
Al Gore believes Africa and Haiti are in this nation's strategic interests--George Bush does not.
There are big choices to be made in this election and I hope that African Americans see that Al Gore is up to making the hard choices needed for all Americans to continue to participate in our nation's economic prosperity.
In a Gore Administration, African Americans will continue to be at the table and will continue to add to the diversity of this nation - because we are successful not in spite of our diversity, but because of it.
CM: How do you respond to the impression held by many that Al Gore is a man that is still trying to find himself and "reinvents" himself at every turn?
Kimberlin Love: Al Gore is his own man. If anyone is "reinventing" Al Gore it is the media. Al Gore is a man of strong principle and integrity, who throughout his life has always sought to make the hard right over the easy wrong."
CM: Do you think that Al Gore has done a good enough job of responding to Black interest and concern about issues like reparations, environmental racism and drug sentencing disparities?
Kimberlin Love: Yes, I believe that Al Gore has done a good job responding to black interests and I believe he understand that there is more to be done.
Below are Al Gore's stances to the three issues posed above (in his own words):
Reparations: I have been supportive of reparations, in fact I support the initiative by Congressman Conyers on this issue. However, overall I believe that the best reparations are a good education and affirmative action. We cannot undo the past, but we can remedy its effect on the present. Right now, the average African-American family has less than one-tenth of the wealth of the average white family. That justifies making available capital for young entrepreneurs. It justifies making available opportunities for advancement and affirmative action in every sphere. In the last seven years, by doing just that, he has worked to create 20 million new jobs in America and the lowest African-American unemployment rate and poverty rate in history. As President, I promise I will continue to lead us in the direction of a future of opportunity for all Americans.
Environmental Justice: While in the Congress, I was proud to be among the first to join Representative John Lewis in putting forward legislation that highlighted the need for Federal attention to this problem. As Vice President, I have strongly supported President Clinton's Executive Order on environmental justice and I have promoted efforts by our agencies to meet the goals of the Executive Order in a variety of contexts. First, we need to make sure that Federal decisions, standards, and programs take into account the multiple and cumulative exposures to pollution that too often are present in low-income and minority communities. EPA's new soot and smog regulations, for example, recognized the disproportionate impacts that poor air quality has on low-income and minority communities. Our asthma initiative recognizes that asthma is becoming a national epidemic, and that asthma rates for black and Hispanic communities are often double and triple the national average. We have had an aggressive program to abate lead hazards in housing, which disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. Second, we must give low-income and minority communities a voice in the policy decisions that affect them, so that the health and environmental needs of these communities are given their rightful priority when funding, enforcement, and permitting decisions are made. As a result of our initiatives, environmental justice must be considered in assessing the environmental impacts of proposed agency actions. Recently, the Administration convened community-level environmental justice meetings in New York and Los Angeles to provide low-income and minority communities a seat at the table with the federal, state, and local agencies responsible for ensuring environmental and public health protection in their communities. We are hoping that these meeting will help us to define new models for promoting environmental justice at the community level. Third, where permitting programs are delegated to or affected by decisions by state and local governments, we must work with the states and provide appropriate incentives and support to ensure that their programs address environmental justice concerns. We also must recognize that historical development and residential patterns often will require targeted action and investments to address exposure levels and patterns that cannot be addressed on a permit-by-permit basis. Our Lands Legacy proposal, for example, dramatically expands the funding available for urban parks. Our Better America Bonds proposal provides a new tax credit that would expand the funding available not only for parks but also for brownfields cleanup, which we know to be a significant need in low-income and minority communities.
Sentencing disparity: I think the disparities in sentencing should be addressed. I know that high rates of incarceration have caused great hardship in many African American communities. Some people have suggested that a major cause of the sentencing disparity is the difference in sentences for crimes involving different kinds of drugs. I support mandatory minimum drug sentencing -- where appropriate -- but want to shrink the disparity between the sentencing requirements for crack and powder cocaine.
CM: Do you believe the reports that indicate that Al Gore's popularity and support among Blacks is shallow? Why wouldn't Al Gore want President Clinton to campaign with him in light of his enormous popularity among Black voters?
Kimberlin Love: The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, one of the leading think tanks in this country on African Americans, released a report last week that said 86 percent of African Americans view Gore favorably compared to George Bush at 29 percent. I do not believe those numbers represent shallow support for Gore. In fact, the support of African Americans for Gore is only 5 points lower than President Clinton who shares a high favorable rating among African Americans.
I think overall people understand that this race is about Al Gore and the big choices and sacrifices he is willing to make on behalf of the American people. I believe Al Gore recognizes the sense of accomplishment and understanding President Clinton brings to the African American community, yet he isn't running for president. African Americans know and love President Clinton, however it is important for them to learn and understand Al Gore because he is the person running for President and upon victory will be leading this nation into the 21st Century.
This by no means undermines the devotion President Clinton brings to the African American community as he campaigns on behalf of Gore, Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats across the country. But, it does underscore the importance of African Americans becoming comfortable with Gore and his vision for the future. In fact, over the course of the last two weeks President Clinton has been meeting and holding conversations with premiere African American celebrities, leaders, and ministers on the importance of this election and his faith that Al Gore will continue on the path he started toward ensuring civil rights and expanding equal justice to all minorities in this country.
CM: Some people believe that Al Gore campaigns as if he has not been in Washington for the last 8 years. How can he argue with credibility about the problems in America today and launch new initiatives to solve them during this campaign season when he was in office for the last 8 years? Why wasn't he as responsive to these issues over the last 8 years?
Kimberlin Love: I beg to differ with persons who believe that Al Gore has campaigned as if he has not been in Washington for the last eight years. I believe that Al Gore has run this campaign based on his experience, leadership and understanding of the problems in Washington and his desire to exceed the work he has already done on behalf of America's families over the past eight years. Al Gore understands the challenges facing families today, especially how difficult it is raising children with the right values. He shares those values and is committed enabling America's families to get the help they need while preserving, not squandering, the money they have saved up.
As to his lack of responsiveness to the issues, I think that it is important to note that nothing changes over night. This country has come a long way over the past eight years. In 1992, this Administration inherited deficits it turned into surpluses, it received a high unemployment and poverty rate among African Americans that it turned into the lowest in history.
Furthermore, this Administration created a Cabinet that looks like America with African Americans serving as Attorney Generals, 12 as U.S. Marshals and 57 on the federal bench, they have increased the minimum wage and lowered interest rates so that more than 1 million African Americans could afford homes and build small businesses.
Al Gore himself has spearheaded the Community Empowerment Board that has helped bring new jobs and growth to America's urban cities. I think that is a record of responsiveness and a great beginning and a good reason for African Americans to get out and vote--so they continue to keep the prosperity they have experienced going. The plans proposed by George Bush will squander what Americans have built up and put the prosperity African Americans are currently experiencing at risk.
While Al Gore is offering serious ideas to extend our prosperity, George Bush is offering ill-considered plans that squander our prosperity on a massive tax cut for the wealthy few--that unfortunately does not include African Americans.
CM: In what ways has Senator Lieberman's VP candidacy helped the ticket among Black voters?
Kimberlin Love: I think that Al Gore's decision to select Joe Lieberman as his running mate reiterates his commitment to equality and shows his courage to stand up and take just stands. Joe Lieberman's selection opened a door of opportunity for African Americans working in the political realm of this country who each day struggle to break through the glass ceilings that have been imposed upon them for years.
Jesse Jackson, upon the selection of Lieberman, said it best when he commented that when a door opens for one it opens for everybody--I believe that.
The Democratic ticket spearheaded by Al Gore and Joe Lieberman represents a strong commitment to civil rights. Both of these gentlemen have been crusaders for equal justice, starting back for Joe Lieberman in 1963 when he helped register African Americans to vote in Mississippi.
Together they have a strong record for supporting affirmative action, hate crimes legislation, racial profiling, increasing the minimum wage and expanding opportunities for small businesses--all attributes lacking on the George Bush/Dick Cheney ticket.
CM: Do you think a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush?
Kimberlin Love: I believe there is only way to vote in this election. We must not do anything that could result in a Bush presidency. This election is about choices and priorities and there is a tremendous amount at stake for the future of our country, our economy, a women's right to choose and most importantly the environment. We cannot afford to risk the very ideals many of us have fought our entire lives to support. By voting for Nader, one could end up taking the country backwards.
Thursday, November 2, 2000
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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.