The above photo is not a stock photo or an image created by The Root’s art department. It is an actual flyer circulating around from the Doug Jones for Senate Committee in his run against Elmer Fudd wannabe and schoolgirl aficionado Roy Moore for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat, and it has upset black voters across Alabama.
Someone, probably a white man, thought that the image would resonate with black people and motivate them to get out the vote. It’s as if black people were considering voting for the child molester until some brilliant strategist posited, “What if he were black, though?” The flyer is reductive in its oversimplification of the black mind as only caring about black issues. While it might not be racist, it is certainly racist adjacent.
It is also the Democratic Party.
Part of the reason the Democratic Party has been marginalized as a party that only exists on the coasts and in urban areas is white-mannery like this. While the policies of the party may be more progressive and black-friendly, the Democratic leadership is often as prejudiced and shortsighted as its Republican counterparts, and next week’s Senate election is the perfect example.
The Democratic Party is trash. It is the reason Hillary Clinton lost. It is the reason Donald Trump is president. It is the reason I might be represented in the U.S. Senate by a grown man who probably went to see Twilight in the theaters and stood by the candy counter asking teenage girls if they wanted a sugar daddy.
Until the stories surfaced about Roy Moore’s predilection for prepubescent ponytail wearers, the Democratic Party had wholly abandoned Alabama. It treated minorities and Democratic-leaning whites in the South like every black character in horror movies: necessary casualties left behind for the greater good.
The party only campaigns in already-Democratic strongholds for the scant few electoral votes during presidential elections, and the rest of the time it ignores them completely.
On the rare occasions when the Democratic Party does address black voters, it only talks about the “black issues”: policing, mass incarceration, civil rights, etc. For the party leadership, black people aren’t whole people who have the same concerns about taxes, job creation, education initiatives, international policy and economics as other voters. They are simply bodies collected in the coffers of the party’s ineffective longing for power.
Now that Dems think Doug Jones has a decent chance to pick up a Senate seat, they have turned to Alabama’s black electorate as if they were in the state the entire time. Furthermore, the only argument they have made in their efforts to convince black voters to vote for Jones is that one thing he did for black people that one time. Every solicitation is the same: “Remember when he convicted the racists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church? See? He’s down!”
Edward Bowser, a Birmingham resident, said it best:
Maybe it’s because, like most reasonable, thoughtful Alabamians, I really want Jones to win—and believe me, scandal or not, his victory is far from guaranteed. This state is redder than the bottom of Cardi B’s shoes, after all. But Jones’ campaign has done such a poor job speaking to the black community that my passion has fizzled. Severely. And this isn’t a new predicament. WashPo and other news outlets might now just be picking up on the trend, but black voters have long been discouraged.
I appreciate what Doug Jones did in prosecuting KKK members in the deaths of four innocent girls. But when that’s the one and only message of black interest coming from your campaign, it shows an extreme disconnect.
Even if they convince us to vote, even if Doug Jones wins, it doesn’t mean Dems are going to go hard for us like the Republicans go hard for their base. The floor of Trump’s core supporters is probably a 25-30 percent, mostly Southern minority. Who does that remind you of?
The Republican Party wins not only because it caters to its base, but because (and this is the important part) it goes all out in efforts to convince the rest of the mainstream voters to get on board.
If you look at the poll numbers, a vast number of Republican voters disagree with their party on gun control, abortion or white supremacy (well, maybe not white supremacy, but still ... ). But the party leadership finds a way to convince them to vote for the party. They talk about job creation, lowering taxes and kitchen-table issues.
Trump will go to a Detroit church and try to change a few minds. The Democratic Party only competes where it knows it will win. Had Hillary Clinton not taken votes for granted in certain states, she might have won the Electoral College. (After you read that sentence, if you listen closely, you can hear a white woman say, “But she won the popular vote, though ... ”)
Yet Democrats treat blacks in the South like stepchildren from a previous marriage: They’ll have us over for weekends and election holidays, smile and act nice, but they don’t really do shit for us. They treat the new kids better. The white ones.
Say what you will about the toothless dimwits who buy “Make America Great Again” hats, but they are getting almost everything they wanted. Trump is rounding up immigrants, normalizing white supremacy, reinstituting the war on drugs, trying his damnedest to keep Muslims out of the country, and he’s still on that bullshit about the wall.
Democrats, on the other hand? Trash.
Black voters are the base of the Democratic Party, and we’re still waiting for Dems to fix the wage gap and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They aren’t going to listen because they never do. They pocket black votes and black dollars, and take them back to the national party to spend in districts where they know they’re going to win.
This has always been the modus operandi of the party, but it was rescued over the past decade by Barack Obama, a black candidate black voters in the South adored. He mobilized both black and white voters in the South by canvassing, using foot soldiers and going after every vote, even turning some red states blue. Now that he’s gone, the Dems are back on that old shit ... until they need us again.
African Americans in the South register more often and are more likely to cast ballots than anywhere else in the country. Yet the Democratic Party squanders the opportunity to make meaningful gains among whites, moderates and apathetic blacks.
According to the U.S. census, Alabama’s voting-age population is 26 percent black. Black voters in Alabama (and the Deep South as a whole) tend to skew more conservative on social issues. If the Democratic Party focused on running candidates that aligned with the party’s values while not so stringently adhering to the national party’s platform, it could rally enthusiasm among black voters and steal some white votes, too. While not ideal, moderate candidates who could caucus with Democrats would be better than no candidates at all.
Alabama is the perfect example. The recent contentious mayoral election in Birmingham excited the entire electorate in one of the blackest cities in the country. Even though blacks were out in droves, the party didn’t use it to push the state Senate race. But you know ... despite the rhetoric about diversity and inclusion, the Democratic National Committee is still a predominantly white institution.
If you look at the names of the faces of Democratic leadership, it’s not noticeably different from that of the GOP. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the darling of the left—Elizabeth Warren—are old, white rich people from the coasts. Had it not been for a Russian hacking, the head of the DNC would still be lil’ Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The Democratic Party is so white and rigid that the last person to bring any new enthusiasm to the masses was a 187-year-old socialist who sounded like the aardvark from the Pink Panther cartoons and never really claimed the party.
Because I am a registered Democrat, a few days ago I received a call from Doug Jones’ campaign. The only issues the caller spoke of were the accusations surrounding Moore and Jones’ seemingly singular accomplishment. As Bowser put it:
We know Roy Moore is a monster, a total embarrassment to our state. But in the eyes of black voters, what makes him more of a monster than the parade of sleazy politicians who have stood against black interests for generations?
So yes, I’m voting for Doug Jones but only because it’s a vote against Roy Moore. And that’s not good enough to rally a base of voters who are already stricken with apathy.
We’re more than civil rights. We’re bigger than fish fries. And we want to be heard.
Just like for this country, the black vote is the lifeblood of the Democratic Party. But party leaders don’t respect it; nor do they appreciate it. They take it for granted. They treat black voters and their Southern constituency the way America treats music, culture, art and the entire economy upon which this country was built:
America loves everything black ...
Black people? Not so much.