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A House Divided


Now that the Florida Supreme Court has delivered a decision that is sure to make this incredibly close presidential election even closer, the country is now forced to deal with the enormous implications of the Court decision and the reality that this election reveals how this nation is being divided in very fundamental ways.

Now that this election may turn on a few hundred votes and the amount of pressure that an individual did or did not apply to a voting ballot, neither George W. Bush or Al Gore can claim that this country wants either one of them to be president with any amount of enthusiasm.

And that is the case among the 100 million people who did vote, not to mention the same amount who are eligible to vote but decided not to do so.

So in effect there are at least two major divisions in the country among the white majority population; a division among the rich, middle-class, and poor along partisan lines - Republican and Democrat and a division between this voting group and the equally large group of middle-class, poor and young that do not vote at all.

This is serious, as the next man to sit in the White House will have at least 150 million people who can say that they absolutely do not want that man leading this country.

In terms of dissatisfaction, that means that as much as three-fourths or 75% of the eligible voting population is dissatisfied with the leader of this country - from the outset of his first term.

And because of the nature of the victory that the next President will score, this is no ordinary dissatisfaction, this is a rather emotionally intense disfavor.

And in all of this lies the Black electorate which has seen its rights trampled on in the voting booth, yet again.

But instead of these violations being seen as just the latest in a long line of a 135 year history, Black leadership has turned this campaign's voting rights violations into a rallying cry to get Al Gore elected.

The violation of the civil and human rights of an entire people are shamelessly being used in the service of the political aspirations of a White man who styles himself as sympathetic to Black America.

We have had voting rights violations for over 100 years under Democrats and Republicans - particularly in the south. Any failure to solve the problem in the year 2000 lies at the foot of Black leadership and the American political process

An interesting fact that many have left out of this discussion pf voting rights violations is that when local politics are involved on school boards, city councils and other local and state offices it is White Democrats who violate the will of Black voters and Black politicians. This has especially happened in the south

While Blacks in the south have seen themselves as Democrats first, White Democrats have seen themselves first and foremost as part of the White majority- and specifically have disenfranchised fellow black Democrats when it served their purposes.

Lani Guinier has written extensively about this phenomenon.

So whether Al Gore wins or not the question remains - when will Black America solve this and other problems in terms of its own best long-term interests and not just the short-term interests of a political party?

Can any of us honestly say that Democrats will be as concerned about Black voting rights violations after the election as they are right now?

No matter what the outcome is, a byproduct of this election is that the racial divide has become more evident than ever. In a two-party system that many claim represents a yin and yang and balance of power in this country something is terribly wrong when 92% of Black people vote overwhelmingly in favor of one party.

Interestingly, some argue that the two parties represent two different economic interests. Some say that the Republicans represent capital while the Democrats represent labor. But this is not true in the eyes of Blacks. Blacks don't vote 92% Democrat because the party represents their economic interests. Blacks vote Democrat because of cultural reasons.

They see the Democrats as sympathetic to Blacks and willing to recognize their man and woman-hood while the Republicans are seen as self-righteous and even racist.

This perception grew even stronger this year.

And for all of the talk that Republicans directed toward a romantic vision of Latinos as their preferred minority - it all came back to haunt them as they were not able to generate enough Latino votes to counteract their dismal performance among the Black voters.

It is as if the Republican Party will do anything to avoid dealing with race - where Blacks are concerned.

A house divided.

And then we have a divided Congress where only two votes may separate the number of Democrats from Republicans in the US Senate and less than ten seats divide the two parties in the House of Representatives.

Compromise and negotiation skills will be at a premium under such circumstances.

And already a group of moderates in both parties are positioning themselves as the real power in the US Congress.

It will be interesting to see how the Congressional Black Caucus operates juxtaposed to the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

Will the moderate Democrats embrace the Black Caucus agenda or ignore them in favor of a coalition of moderate Republicans?

Time will tell.

In any event, the politics of division have reached new heights and one can only wonder whether this country will be the better for it.


Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, November 22, 2000

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