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Ralph Nader For President and a Democratic House of Representatives


For eight months we have closely followed the words and actions of the major and minor party candidates for President and believe that a vote for Ralph Nader for President as well as Democratic Party congressional candidates represents the best collective interests of the Black Electorate. The dual strategy, in the long run, raises and pushes forward issues that matter most to the Black Electorate and empowers the Congressional Black Caucus to respond to these issues and to place them before the entire United States Congress. There are several reasons why we have endorsed Ralph Nader:

NADER FOR PRESIDENT

Political Reform
. Nader makes it abundantly clear that for too many Americans the political process is broken. The influence of corporate and special interests over politicians and the electoral process has moved elected representatives of the people further away from the real aspirations and concerns of those whom they represent. Rather than depicting those who do not vote as lazy or apathetic individuals with no reason, Nader understands that many people are not involved in politics and the electoral process because they honestly believe that politicians are bought and paid for and maybe even worse - ineffective. Skepticism runs high throughout this country with many Americans having an unfavorable opinion and mistrust for those who legally represent them in the law making and executing process. This is a basic challenge to America's democracy and one that cannot be solved by simply advocating good policies and making promises. The system itself is broken for many, as evidence by the low voter turnout in recent years and without a force of the people, by the people and for the people to balance corporate and special interest influence on the Executive and Legislative Branches of government, this country is little more than a plutocracy.

The Poor and The Young. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush have campaigned primarily to win the votes of the middle-class, the wealthy and the elderly. Though their campaign rhetoric speaks in noble terms of "One America" and their desire to "represent all Americans" their strategy and message has been directed at Middle America, those with wealth and those groups that are firmly involved in the political process. One of the clearest examples of this is the excessive attention paid to a prescription drug benefit. 40 million Americans, including 11 million children, are not covered by health insurance while all senior citizens are covered through the Medicare program, regardless of their income. Even millionaire senior citizens qualify for Medicare coverage, not to mention that they still are eligible to collect Social Security. It doesn't seem to add up that people with health insurance get more attention for a missing piece of their plan - prescription drugs, while an even greater number have no insurance at all. The reason for this undue attention to prescription drugs is that Bush and Gore are more concerned about winning the senior citizen vote than they are about solving this country's health crisis by private or public means. And those who can make the callous defense of " that's the breaks because seniors vote and give money and candidates" reveal how this country's political process ignores the young. Who speaks for them? Remember, 11 million children, a disproportionate amount of which are Black, have neither health insurance nor the right to vote. And what candidates are even remotely concerned with the issues that are on the minds of young Blacks that make up the Hip-Hop generation, which is castigated and ostracized by the Establishment and only thought of in terms of the quality of music lyrics and violence in movies. The Hip-Hop generation has positions on criminal justice issues, education, economics and foreign policy that are not being represented or heard by the establishment. While Bush and Gore may see this generation as radical and not worthy of attention, their influence grows everyday and their political voice through the power of culture, grows stronger everyday. Gore, in particular, likes to humor this group with guest appearances on various shows that are popular among them but hasn't uttered a clear agenda or demonstrated a lasting commitment that addresses this group's concerns about local justice, the prison-industrial complex, the mis-education of the youth and the deleterious effects of globalization in America and abroad. Ralph Nader has the best understanding of this voting bloc and has been the most responsive to this community and the issues they represent.

Referendum on Clinton-Gore. We do not share the widely held belief that these are great times for Black America. We have never jumped through hoops when the "lowest unemployment rate among African-Americans" in recorded history is announced. At every turn, when it has been announced that the Black unemployment rate has reached a record low we are quick to point out that if the huge jump in Black incarceration, largely due to profiling and sentencing disparities for non-violent offenses were factored into the unemployment numbers - the Black unemployment rate would be close to 10% and not the revered 7% that the mainstream media, the Clinton-Gore administration and the Democratic Party would have you to believe. We also have held tremendous reservations for the idea that President Clinton may in fact be the first Black president. We have our doubts and cannot forget the Bill Clinton and Al Gore that have their genesis in the Democratic Leadership Council, which outright planned the movement of the Democratic Party away from civil rights issues, Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Black Electorate in order to appeal to white Middle America. We can't forget that it was Bill Clinton and not Ronald Reagan or George Bush that signed welfare reform, the crime bill and supported the "mending" of affirmative action, not because they were good ideas as Black apologists for Clinton would have you believe, but because Clinton is a pure politician with no real loyalty to Blacks who felt the heat of conservatives in this country and put on a new coat that would appeal to them. Sure welfare and crime needed reduction in the Black community and the statistics show that welfare and crime are down but at what cost? Have the ends justified the means? And particularly in the case of welfare reform, why do Black Democrats unthinkingly judge the success of the program in terms of how many people are off of the welfare rolls as opposed to how many are leading productive lives with jobs that are not low-wage and demeaning undertakings that they are in effect forced into by state and local governments? And it has been a Democratic administration that has presided over obvious environmental racism. A recent GAO report cited the lack of responsiveness that the federal government has demonstrated toward the problem of getting lead-based paint and other poisons out of the America's public housing system which is overwhelmingly populated by Blacks. It is these toxins that are partly responsible for the high levels of asthma and breathing disorders among young Black children. And it is also the "get tough on crime" Clinton administration that increased death penalty applications without checking to see whether innocent Blacks were being executed in the process. If a Republican did the things that Clinton-Gore have done, their shortcomings would be campaign issues today, championed by Black leaders. But because the Black Electorate is the most forgiving bloc of voters and because Blacks tend to be pro-Democrat, increasingly because they are anti-Republican, Clinton-Gore got a reprieve with the Black Community that we feel was largely undeserved. For us, political appointments and patronage are not enough. A vote for Ralph Nader or Al Gore is a vehicle to communicate dissatisfaction or satisfaction with the last 8 years. We side with Nader's blistering critique that Blacks have not benefited as advertised under Clinton-Gore and in fact, have been worked against in key areas.

A Referendum On The Relationship Between Blacks And America's Two-Party System. Republicans accuse Democrats of taking the Black vote for granted and Democrats accuse Republicans of ignoring the Black vote. Both are correct. And in the 1800s the scenario was reversed. It is time for the Black Electorate to take steps to change this 135-year relationship which has gotten the Black Electorate little more than basic human rights that it is entitled to from God and the government's help in forcing Blacks where they were not wanted. In the 1860s Republican Presidents used federal troops to force Whites to allow Blacks to exercise their right to vote and in the 1960s Democratic Presidents used federal troops to force whites to allow Blacks into their private institutions and public education facilities. In the late 1800s it was Booker T. Washington that advised Republican Presidents on race issues and made recommendations for Black appointments to federal positions. In the late 1900s and today it is the Rev. Jesse Jackson who performs the same function by Democratic Presidents. In the late 1800s and early 1900s Blacks asked Republican Presidents to fight beatings and lynchings. Today, Blacks ask Democratic Presidents to end beatings by police and racial profiling. The relationship has not moved beyond survival and security. And it has essentially not moved beyond a trade of Black votes for appointments and efforts by the federal government to keep a group of whites from putting their hands on Blacks. It is time for a new relationship between Blacks and the two-party system where one ignores Blacks and the other takes them for granted. 85% Black support of the Democratic Party is out of proportion with reality and the amount of issues that the Democrats fail to address and the Republicans, in general, have done nothing to deserve more than the 10% of the Black vote that they get nowadays. A vote for Ralph Nader and increased involvement by Blacks in Independent politics is a positive step toward changing that relationship. In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt ran for president for the Progressive Party and siphoned off a significant amount of Black support from the Republican Party. But the Progressive Party soon folded. If Ralph Nader can gain a significant level of Black support and the Green Party can earn 5% of the popular vote, then the Green party can do what the Progressive Party failed to do and that is to serve as a viable alternative to the political party of choice for Blacks. Such an alternative can begin a process that would result in Democrats, Republicans and Independent Parties actively competing for the Black vote. Something that has never occurred in our history in America. A vote for Nader is a vote to end the tired refrain of "we are ignored and taken for granted".

Reparations. It is time. How much longer can Black America tolerate every other group that has received a collective injustice at the hands of the US government receive an apology and financial compensation without seeking the same for itself. And how can Black America watch Clinton administration officials like Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat work assiduously on behalf of Jews and their descendants who are seeking reparations in Germany for slave labor while ignoring Black descendants who desire the same for slave labor in this country. Far from that, this government has never uttered a national apology recognizing the evil act and the damage that it caused. Yet most will admit that racial tensions and the racial divide remain the most intractable of all of America's problems. The broken Black family, economic inequality, the mis-education of Black children and poor health habits and certain diseases, while perpetuated in part by Blacks today, all have their genesis in the slave experience that Blacks suffered in America. If this country is going to be honest about what has happened it has to stop sweeping this history under the rug. It has to face what has happened head-on; Blacks and Whites must do that. And President Clinton's insulting and ineffective attempt to discuss race did more damage than good to the issue. What the effort needs besides Black grassroots, political and economic dialogue and unity on the issue is a white politician who is not afraid to be honest about what has happened. The Republicans, for the most part think reparations is a waste of time and really believe it is nothing more than another hand-out; Democrats pay lip-service to the idea and offer little more than a slight nod of approval or sympathy. Ralph Nader has firmly voiced his support of reparations and has asked Blacks like Randall Robinson to advise him on the issue. He not only thinks it is a good idea and necessary to the healing of this country's racial divide, he understands why this is so. He understands that while financial resources should be involved, there are spiritual and moral dimensions to the issue that are equally and/or more important to the United States of America. And Nader understands that the issue is complex and that the federal and state government and the private sector both played a hand in and benefited from slavery in different ways and to different degrees. A vote for Ralph Nader raise reparations even higher on the political agenda of all politicians and moves this country closer to facing the reality of the Black experience in America and a real effort to end the racial divide.

Coalition-Building Based Upon Mutual Respect and Mutual Interests. For too long Blacks have taken the beatings and suffered and supplied the votes while others have reaped the benefits of the legislation passed as a result of Black efforts. Today, gays, unions, Jews, secular humanists, pro-choice and feminist groups all get more out of the Democratic Party from Black voting power than Blacks do. And quite often these groups are nowhere to be found when Black issues need broad-based support. The Democratic Party coalition is one that fails the Black Electorate more than it succeeds on its behalf. There is nothing wrong with Blacks working with Gays, Jews, feminists and unions in coalitions. But not if it prevents Blacks from working with religious groups, Palestinians, Arabs, Africans and Native Americans. Recently, Blacks allegiance with the Democratic Party has caused it to not be responsive to the legitimate concerns of Palestinians. This is because the Democratic Party is so pro-Israeli that any support of an Islamic group or Palestinian group that disagrees with Israel's position in that region is considered anti-Semitic. Just the same, Blacks in the Democratic Party are afraid to publicly point out that Israel receives several times the foreign aid that all of the 54 countries of Africa receive - combined. Because of this, Black leaders applaud President Clinton's symbolic trips to the continent when they could be asking for a more even and appropriate allocation of resources. But the fear of offending an influential member of the Democratic Party coalition keeps them from publicly making such a case. The same applies for Black churches and mosques that could access funding from the federal government with the help of Black politicians in order to work on community development initiatives. But because of fear of what secular humanists and certain liberals would say, Black politicians vote against programs that would give religious institutions resources that they could effectively use to solve societal problems in the Black community. It is the same on issues of abortion where Black religious leaders who are politicians disavow their belief system in order to not offend the pro-choice and feminist members of the Democratic Party coalition. A vote for Ralph Nader can help to partially change that. He supports a more equitable allocation of resources and aid to Africa and he supports a just solution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict that respects the history of that region and the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic communities of that region. And he has been the best candidate in terms of advocacy of Native Americans -having demonstrated a nearly life-long commitment to Native Americans, not to mention the fact that his running mate is a Native American woman. It still disappoints us to consider how few Blacks realize that Native Americans, more than any other group, are their natural political allies. A vote for Ralph Nader can help to promote stronger political coalitions based upon mutual interest and respect.

A Democratic House of Representatives

We have only one reason for supporting a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives. It would mean that several members of the Congressional Black Caucus would obtain chairman and woman ships of key committees and subcommittees. And because the Black Electorate sends them to Washington and has better access to Black elected officials, we believe that it is a wise strategy to empower the Congressional Black Caucus while we simultaneously make them more responsive to a people's agenda than they are to the Democratic Party's agenda.

If The Democrats take back the House, Black Caucus members are in line for as many as 22 chair positions with various jurisdictions. So we say vote Democratic in the House Congressional races so that Rep. Charlie Rangel can become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and so that Rep. John Conyers can become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and so that Rep. Julian Dixon can head up the House Intelligence Committee.

They can only assume these positions if Democrats win a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives which means that you have to hold your nose and vote for Democrats running for Congress in your state that may leave a lot to be desired. But we ask you to do just that as the pros greatly outweigh the cons. And while you are at it, please send some campaign contributions to members of the Congressional Black Caucus so that they have absolutely no excuse for not responding to the Black Electorate's issues of concern.

We want them to fill these positions so that they can be responsive to us and not special interest. But if we only supply the votes while special interests supply the campaign contributions we will not get what we want. Any politician that represents our interests deserves our votes as well as our dollars. A vote for and financial support of the CBC is in the best interest of the Black Electorate and represents a good strategy.

We support Nader and the CBC because we think that their agendas are actually closer to one another than that of Al Gore and the CBC.

This is a point that seems to be lost on many Black Democrats.

It is the Clinton-Gore administration and a Republican Congress that rejects the budget priorities of the CBC budget every year. It is the Clinton-Gore administration and a Republican Congress that ignores Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s appeals on Federal Reserve monetary policy and his calls for a moratorium on the death penalty. It is the Clinton-Gore administration and Republican Congress that did nothing for 8 years to help Rep. John Conyers advance his work on reparations. They said sympathetic words quietly but did not lift a finger to advance the issue. It is the Clinton-Gore administration and Republican Congress that ignores Rep. Maxine Waters on the subject of the involvement of U.S. banks in drug money laundering and mandatory minimum drug sentencing disparities. It is the Clinton-Gore administration and Republican Congress that was slow to move on CBC appeals regarding the plight of the Black Farmer. On a litany of issues where the Republican Congress opposed Black Caucus members on various issues, it was the Clinton-Gore administration that did little or nothing to help out.

So those who say a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George W. Bush have not realized how "Bush-like" the Clinton-Gore administration has already been toward the CBC.

There is no George W. Bush in sight when the Clinton-Gore administration rejects the CBC's priotities.

A vote for Ralph Nader and a voting strategy that empowers the CBC raises the issues that the Black Electorate and CBC members support but which their own party and Al Gore ignore and/or only pay lip service to.


Cedric Muhammad

Monday, November 6, 2000

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