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As Long as We Remember...

October 26, 2006

A Primary Wake Up Call

Chris Cavey

There will soon come a time and a day when the African-American community will discover that it is The Democratic Party - and their own black leaders - which fetter them. They are held to a party that promises power and equality, just like a junkie is dependent on his dealer; both are paths toward unrealized and wasted potentials.

Since the Primary Election every major newspaper has printed at least one story about the disappointment of the black community and its current elected officials. The fear in the Democratic Party is that the black voter will stay home Election Day, or march to the polls to support Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., and Michael Steele; a valid concern, which is not new post-primary.

In April of this year The Washington Post reported that a Democratic National Committee document stated: "as much as 44 percent - would readily abandon their historic Democratic allegiances after hearing Steele's messaging." That is a big chunk of potential voters to loose from your largest voting block.

At that time Kweisi Mfume's advisers thought alarms should sound for the organized Democratic Party in Maryland. Former Representative Mfume's strategist Walter Ludwig was quoted: "Everybody up and down the ticket needs to make sure African Americans don't feel like they're being taken for granted." Apparently no one listened.

Fast-forward to post-primary and the end of September with The Sun reporting the private meetings of the "Committee of 10," the name Maryland's 10 African- American state senators use to refer to themselves. They were meeting to consider just how to voice their frustrations that their leading black candidates, Stuart Simms and Kweisi Mfume were defeated.

Sen. Nathaniel Exum was concerned that the Democrat ticket looked just the same as it did in "1856." Sen. Joan Carter Conway stated: "We have allowed.the Republican Party to come up with the first African-American at the top of the ticket. The Democrats should have done something a long time ago." Sen. Delores Kelley said, speaking of the black constituency, "They're distracted in the way that the Republicans have fielded their ticket."

These black leaders are sounding out a frustration, but it is one that they have allowed to happen within their party. They have been fooled into thinking that they have power and control on a party-wide basis. In fact, they only control their own small fiefdom, which was created by Democrat leadership to make African-American leaders think they had power.

Every 10 years, following the U.S. census, re-districting occurs. Republicans, being a minority in Maryland, hate the gerrymandering that occurs. Democrat leaders maneuver the pencil to "pack and crack" as many Republicans within a district as possible to lessen the number of Republicans elected. The Democrats then quietly smile because they have contained their opponent.

Then they use the same principle with the African-American communities. This time they boast that they have created "majority-minority districts" to ensure black elected official representation. This is done only for one of two reasons. Either to contain, like with the Republicans, or because the Democrat leadership does not believe, or perhaps wish, an African-American can be elected in a mixed neighborhood setting.

Republicans, however, have become more diverse, especially in the past 15 years. Senator Conway is certainly right with all the talents within the black community the Democrats should have had a "top of the ticket," candidate of color, long ago; but those candidates have been against the glass ceiling of current leadership unable to break through.

Republicans have been comfortable with Michael Steele on a statewide basis for a long time. He was a 1998 candidate for comptroller and a former state party chairman. The step to lieutenant governor was easy and very much excepted by the GOP and its leadership. Thus we have the huge ground support and the likelihood of his being a U.S. senator.

The African-American community needs to set aside the old notions that Republicans are the party of "no." It needs to see that the Maryland Republican Party has proven that a black man can open doors to statewide elected office. Its leaders need to re-think the reasons for the kindnesses of their Democrat leadership. They are just using their 1,000,000 voters to retain power.

Perhaps Senator Conway summed it up best when she said, "A lot of people feel disenfranchised about what happened during the primary. If someone doesn't do something in terms of uniting the party, then we're going to be in trouble."

She's right. One of the latest polls has Lieutenant Governor Steele just four points behind Rep. Ben Cardin. That same poll shows that Mr. Steele is taking 25% of the African-American vote. A few more points and he will be the first African-American U.S. Senator from Maryland; and he is a Republican.

After that the "Committee of 10" will realize the true potential of a black statewide candidate. They will also realize that their black constituency doesn't play the game of "party over race" anymore.

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