Dr. Lenora Fulani, Michael Bloomberg and Making The Black Vote "Unpredictable"
A very intriguing and controversial political relationship has formed with huge implications for the Black electorate. Not surprisingly, Dr. Lenora Fulani is at the center of that controversy and said relationship. Dr. Fulani has endorsed Michael Bloomberg, a Republican candidate for Mayor of New York City who, as a staple of his campaign strategy, is actively courting independent voters. The combination of a consistently unpredictable political maverick like Dr. Fulani and the financial news emperor with an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion dollars - Michael Rubens Bloomberg – on the surface appears odd. But that is before one considers the important role that Fulani's Independence Party plays in New York politics. Remember it was Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her husband, the former President of the United States, who actively courted members of the Independence Party in an effort to win over the Party's support of the then-candidate for U.S. Senator – Mrs. Clinton. In addition, many credit Sen. Charles Schumer's victory over Alfonse D'Amato (in the 1998 Senate race) to the fact that Schumer received 109,027 votes from individuals voting for him on the Independence Party line. For all of the controversy that surrounds the Independence Party and its association with the controversial Fulani, politicians recognize that the Party has, in the past, played the role of "king-maker". Bloomberg realizes this and thus, his outreach to "I.P.", as the party is known in New York political circles.
On the other hand, Dr. Fulani sees in Bloomberg not just an opportunity for her party's political agenda and profile to be raised by Michael Bloomberg's candidacy, but also an opportunity to break Black voters out of the habit of their traditional support of the Democratic Party and into the beginning stages of an effort that she hopes will bring the Black electorate into independent politics.
In a recent discussion Dr. Fulani told BlackElectorate.com that she thinks that the Democratic Party is especially vulnerable in the New York Mayoral election and that the Bloomberg candidacy represents a great opportunity for the Black electorate to leverage its voting power in a way that allows it to break free of the deadly dichotomy where Black voters are taken for granted by Democrats and ignored by the Republican Party. She even informed us that she sees a potential victory for the Black electorate in this election even if Bloomberg loses.
She told us:
"What this election is about is whether or not we in the Black community are going to break with the Democratic Party. The four Democrats running for Mayor (City Council Speaker Peter Vallone; Public Advocate Mark Green; City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer) have not produced any passion in the Black community. If 20% of the Black community voted for Bloomberg it would help the entire community. If we give him 20% then we win because it makes the Black vote an unpredictable vote in the future. The Black community doesn't realize how valuable unpredictable votes are. People have to negotiate with you if they don't know what you are going to do. In 1992, when Ross Perot got 20% of the White vote, that group was the most sought after group of votes in the country because they were unpredictable"
We asked Dr. Fulani why a decision on her part, to run for Mayor would not accomplish this goal better than her endorsement of Bloomberg and she responded, " Bloomberg is bigger than I am. He will get more votes than I could and our Party grows from this in a way that it could not from my candidacy. And it is important for people to realize that the Independence Party is a Party with a significant and influential Black membership. We have a say in this Party like we have never had in the Republican Party or Democratic Party. In the Independence party of our 50,000 registrars, 15,000 are Black"
While Fulani has endorsed Bloomberg, the question remains whether Bloomberg, unlike Reform Party Presidential Candidate Pat Buchanan, will actually follow Fulani's advice regarding how he should pursue the Black vote. Some wonder whether Bloomberg is sincerely after the votes of disgruntled Black Democrats and those who don't vote at all or whether he is solely content with winning the votes of those who are already members of the Independence Party. Most political observers don't believe that Bloomberg can defeat the Democratic Party nominee without a showing of 15% or better among Black voters. But his chances of winning the Republican Party nomination in his race against Herman Badillo seem to be improving everyday. Yesterday a poll was released that indicated that Bloomberg would fare better against any of the Democratic opponents than would Badillo. In addition Bloomberg's deep pockets may eventually overpower Badillo's dwindling and relatively meager campaign fund. Thus far Bloomberg is said to have dropped around $8 million already , on his campaign, while Badillo has raised $215,635 and has spent almost $186,000 of it.
If Bloomberg can win the Republican nomination and run a campaign that attracts dissatisfied Black Democrats, and independent and young Black voters, he could pull an upset and have the effect that Fulani suggests.
July 26, 2001
Here is Dr. Fulani's explanation, unedited, as to why she is supporting Michael Bloomberg for Mayor of New York City. It was written last month.
WHY I'M ENDORSING MIKE BLOOMBERG FOR MAYOR
By Lenora B. Fulani
The Black community has a solid and exciting option in the mayoral
race this year. He's Mike Bloomberg and he's running for mayor on the
Independence Party ticket. I'm enthusiastically endorsing his candidacy.
And I'm hitting the streets to campaign for him among Black voters this week.
Mike Bloomberg is the kind of candidate the Black community likes to
vote for. He has liberal values and a genuine concern about education,
public health and social justice. But more than that, he's independent.
That's why the Independence Party endorsed him. And that's why I think
he's far and away the best mayoral candidate for Black New Yorkers.
African Americans have been loyal Democrats for a long time. Some - myself
among them - think it's been too long. The Democratic machine counts on
our votes to stay in power, but we've little to show for it. Our schools
are failing. Our kids aren't learning. And our political leverage has all
but dried up.
The Democratic mayoral candidates may be courting us now with
pronouncements about racial profiling and Black-Latino unity, but
the Democratic nominee will surely turn his back on us as soon
as he needs to. That's what it means to be taken for granted
politically. And that's our current situation.
Mike Bloomberg is not a machine politician. Though a longtime
registered Democrat, he bypassed the Democratic Party for this
election because he knew that only a clubhouse politician could
capture the Democratic nomination. He decided to run as a Republican,
not because he is a conservative, but because he is a radical.
He was radical enough to say party labels don't matter. The real
issue is what you stand for. And he stands for many things that the
Black community needs and wants.
But I'm endorsing Mike Bloomberg for reasons that go well beyond
what he stands for. I'm endorsing him and campaigning for him in
the streets, the churches, the playgrounds and the shopping centers
because if Black people grab this opportunity to vote for an independent,
the entire New York political establishment will wake up and take notice.
Consider this. If we produce a strong Black independent vote this
year, Al Sharpton will seriously weigh a 2004 presidential run as
an independent. Every Black elected official in this town (all
Democrats now) will be forced to - and able to - shift positions
away from the party line toward the community's line. For example,
poll after poll shows the Black community supports school choice,
in the form of charter schools and vouchers. But our Black elected
officials won't fight for them because they must dance to the tune
of the Democratic leadership. If we go independent, all the
There are lots of folks in this town who don't want us to go
independent for Bloomberg. Some of them are typical white
liberals like Gail Collins of the New York Times who has questioned
whether anyone will be willing to vote for Mike Bloomberg on the
Independence Party line because I'm a leader of the party. The
"anyone" she has in mind includes Black people, whom Gail - and
all white liberals of that ilk - think are too stupid to make up their own
mind. We're not.
Mike Bloomberg isn't stupid, either. He didn't get to be a billionaire
by making the wrong partnerships or misreading the marketplace.
He made a partnership with the Independence Party because he
believes political independence is the right way and the way of the
future. He knows there are 750,000 registered independents in
New York City. And he told the Independence Party in no uncertain
terms that he wants the Black community to be part of his coalition.
The trend toward political independence among Blacks is reaching
new levels. Last week I was an invited guest at a conference called
by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies where a report
was released showing that 42.6% of African Americans between 18
and 25 now consider themselves politically independent. My aim is to
reach those young people, as well as the many disillusioned older
people, with the message that the Bloomberg candidacy offers us the
opportunity to turn things around for our community.
I've met Mike Bloomberg. I followed the process by which he pursued
and received the nomination of my party, the Independence Party. I
noted that his first public appearance as a candidate was in Harlem.
And I watched him stand alongside dozens of Independence Party
candidates - many of them Black and Latino - and support our call for
nonpartisan municipal elections, a critical reform designed to break
machine control of politics.
Mike Bloomberg is a good man. He's a caring man. He cares about
people not parties. I'm for him 100%. I think his campaign can make
all the difference in the world for us.
# # #
Lenora B. Fulani has twice run for president as an independent -
making history in 1988 by becoming the first woman and first African
American to appear on the ballots of all 50 states. She currently chairs
the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, the country's leading
think-tank for independent politics. She can be reached at 800-288-3201
or at email@example.com or by mail at: 225 Broadway, Suite 2010,
New York, NY 10007. 6/21/01
Thursday, July 26, 2001