shortly, in order to win close races and advance a pro-working families
agenda, Democrats and progressives will be forced to spend time
and resources engaging the fastest growing segment of potential
base voters - African Americans under age 40."
- Cornell Belcher and Donna Brazile
sooner had the polls closed November 5 than Black operatives in
the Democratic National Committee began churning the data, searching
for cracks in the African American bloc vote upon which the party's
survival depends. Three weeks of numbers crunching turned up no
evidence of Black defections to the GOP; indeed, "the data
indicates that Democrats didn't suffer a drop off in support among
African Americans, despite the unprecedented Republican African
American communications and field efforts and the highly convoluted
nature of the issue environment," according to a memorandum
circulating among the Black Caucus of the DNC and the Congressional
danger lies, not in mass Black defections from the Democrats, but
in Republican efforts to dissuade from voting "younger and
weaker self identifying Democratic African Americans... a cohort
that is increasingly open to Republican negative messaging about
lavished millions of dollars on Black media in the mid-term election
campaign, principally Black radio. DNC Voting Rights Institute director
Donna Brazile and political strategist and polling consultant Cornell
Belcher, authors of the report, warn that "Republicans are
well-positioning themselves to suppress the turnout of African American
voters via their specific negative attacks asserting that African
Americans are taken for granted and Democrats are out of touch with
the values of the community."
GOP is not just whistling in the wind - negative ads challenging
Blacks to stop loving a party that does not love them back, resonate.
"Unfortunately, many of the post election headlines by 'Black
leaders' criticizing the Party's efforts will find their way into
Republican Black communications in the 2004 cycle, further helping
Republicans dissuade African Americans from voting," said the
estimates that various Republican and rightwing organizations spent
at least $7 million on Black media, including $1 million in Republican
National Committee spot buys centered on the American Urban Radio
Networks. Targeted ad campaigns were also launched in the key
presidential election states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky
and Missouri, laying the groundwork for 2004. A shadowy, Christian
Right-associated outfit called Council for a Better Government ordered
Black radio ads worth $1.5 million in 12 states: Arkansas, Colorado,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New
Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and North Dakota, according to
the Associated Press. Other operations outside of the official GOP
spent millions more on Black-oriented media. The Democratic National
Committee and its congressional campaigns spent about $3 million
on reaching Blacks through media.
addition, Republicans invested an unprecedented $5 million in polling,
alone, this campaign cycle - testing messages both to energize their
own faithful and demoralize potential Black voters.
lopsided nature of the contest becomes clear when it is considered
that Democrats must encourage all of their African American
supporters to turn out at the polls, while Republicans seek only
to peel away a few additional percentage points for their candidates,
concentrating instead on discouraging normally Democratic Black
voters from participating in the process.
ads focused on two, main themes: vouchers for private schools and
the claim that Social Security shortchanges Blacks. In both cases,
systemic ills are blamed on Democrats, and Black voters are made
to feel foolish for sticking with the party. There is hardly even
the pretense of a pitch to join the Republican Party. The effective
message: stay home.
Brazile and Cornell Belcher are far more than mere numbers crunchers.
Brazile was "Gore 2000" campaign manager, and Belcher
advises the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. These veteran
strategists understand full well the policy implications
of their data:
(63) percent of African Americans under age 40, 62 percent of
African Americans who self ID as independents (34 percent of African
Americans), 57 percent of those who categorized the importance
of the election as low, and 47 percent of those who tend to vote
only in the Presidential on-year were open to considering the
Republican candidate after hearing the argument that Democrats
take African Americans for granted and have a history of neglecting
African Americans except right before elections, when they make
promises that go unfulfilled after the elections.
face more than a challenge of resources if they are to "move
younger and weaker self identifying Democratic African Americans
to vote" in 2004. Brazile, Belcher and the various Black caucuses
within the party must "move" the national leadership to
take positions that inspire younger Blacks. Democrats cannot expect
people to identify with a party that cannot identify and define
the fatal "centrists" of the Democratic Leadership Council
(DLC) have been purged from nominal leadership of House Democrats,
their soul-sapping, determined vagueness continues to strangle the
party's every pronouncement. The DLC is like political Alzheimer's,
relentlessly deadening vital areas of what was once an organic coalition.
are the very heart of that coalition. Yet, in the same suicidal
manner as DLCers, Democrats shape their policies and positions to
the ephemeral tastes of an ever-shifting - but always white
- slither of "swing" voters.
it don't mean a thing even if you've got that swing,
- if the core of the party melts away.
DNC Brazile-Belcher memo points to the numerical writing on the
wall. The day of reckoning is nigh - possibly the first Tuesday
in November, 2004. For decades the Democrats have been consumed
by anxiety at the erosion of white voter support. Now the numbers
make clear that the immediate threat is implosion, through
the withering away of the party's staunchest supporters - a prospect
that is demographically imminent.
our analysis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
survey of Black opinion, November
described the data as showing "a deepening disappointment
with the Democratic Party among Blacks." The 2002 GOP media
campaign was based on the same conclusion. As we wrote, "Enthusiastic
Democrats are [Republicans'] worst nightmare. Apathetic, estranged
Black youth portend extended decades of Republican rule, not Black
political terrain will be even more treacherous for Democrats in
2004. George Bush is throwing open the federal vaults to create
a "faith-based" political marketplace, a strategy designed
specifically to buy off Black preachers. Democrats could not out-bribe
Republicans under the old rules. With billions in federal
monies now ready for dispersal among the Black clergy, many of whom
are ready to be politically born-again, the party faces an entirely
new electoral landscape. There is no force on earth that will stop
a certain element of Black ministerial Sauls from morphing into
Republican Pauls, once they see the light of a federal subsidy.
No force, that is, except the disgust of the Black public, including
the opprobrium of their church congregations.
character and effectiveness of the Democratic Party's message to
Blacks in 2004 will be critical in determining the fate of the party.
Its future is in African American hands - not the other way around.
Black caucuses within the party need to remind themselves of this
fact, and act accordingly. They must demand a loudly progressive
agenda and program, and the resources necessary to deliver a credible
message to an indispensable people. There is no other choice.