Black PACs: Greeks Take Action
Two new political action committees say it's time for our electoral participation to evolve.
The super PAC's current dollars have allowed it to recruit roughly 3,000 volunteers and train enough to register 1,000 voters so far. It has also paid for a five-week, 24-city bus tour, which kicks off on June 6. After the heightened visibility and reach from the tour -- complete with two black tour buses wrapped with the 1911 United logo and the image of President Obama -- the super PAC's organizers anticipate an additional 4,000 volunteers, 10,000 more registered voters and a total of $250,000 raised through fundraisers at each stop.
"We're focusing on the battleground states, a specific population of black voters, and we're interacting with that population early and often," said Skinner of the super PAC's recruit, train and deploy strategy. "There's a group of black people who we know vote every time, and a group of people who voted in 2008 but didn't show up in 2004. Our approach is to get those people who vote all the time -- who have connections to the folks who don't normally vote, through their family and friend networks -- to engage in volunteering."
A Political Evolution
While some may balk at PACs of any stripe, with objections over injecting still more money into the election process, Unity9 PAC and 1911 United see their organizations as a maturation of black participation in politics.
"We have taken note of how people are able to influence legislation and appointments, and to do that takes more than just votes," said Unity9 PAC's Hamilton. "It takes assisting candidates to get them elected so that they can pass legislation favorable to what you believe is correct. This is not just a 'today' strategy but a long-term vision. We want to eventually have the right people in the right place, who have the ability to influence the decisions that government makes."
Skinner adds that groups like 1911 United and Unity9 PAC are just building on the foundation of black institutions such as civil rights groups, churches and fraternities and sororities. "As African Americans develop as a voting group, these are the things that we engage in -- super PACs and all," he said. "The continuing legacy of these black institutions has manifested in new ways based on the times in which we live."
Ultimately, effecting change in a shifting electoral landscape will take a group effort. "If these are the rules of the game, you have to be smart about it," said Hamilton. "You have to use each and every tool available to you. That's why super PACs have their place, nonconnected PACs have their place and the [fraternities and sororities] that work on the voter-education side have their place. It's going to take all of that for us to be fully involved in our own future and destiny."
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's senior political correspondent.