Does Supporting the Democratic Party and Black Politicians Really Help African-Americans?

In the last presidential election Gallup polls showed that African-Americans supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 90%. This trend is not surprising since blacks have been a reliable Democratic block. However, it is troublesome that an entire group of people constantly stake their political future on one party.

I argue that the broad support African-Americans give to the Democratic Party have actually made the Party unresponsive to their concerns. Yes, I know that during the 1960s the majority of Northern Democrats supported civil rights legislation, which was signed into law by Democratic Presidents. Since that time the Democrats have made very little foray into protecting the interest of blacks. The main reason is, I think, that the support the Democrats have enjoyed from African-Americans has made the party complacent and convinced that since they have black votes in the bag they can just make promises and later not act on them. To give one example, CNN reports that the wealth gap between blacks and whites has gotten worse over the last 25 years. With a mean worth of a white household being $265,000, while the mean for black households was only $28,500. Although, African-Americans have made gains I doubt they have advanced as far as they had hoped in the 1960s.

Another claim that the Democratic Party has for African-American support is that the majority of African-American office holders are Democrats. However, just because a politician is African-American does not mean he or she will watch out for the interests of their constituents. Fredrick Douglass brings up a similar point in his speech “The Nation’s Problem” in which he lists as one of the major problems of African-Americans of his time the fact that they sponsored newspapers just because they were run by blacks. He argued that a “colored newspaper maker has no higher claim upon us for patronage than a colored carpenter, a colored shoemaker, or a colored bricklayer. Whether he should be supported depends on the character of the man and the quality of his work.” The same can be said of black politicians. Can anyone say that men like Charles Rangel, Coleman Young, or Marion Barry are men of good character and solid policies? Simply because a politician happens to be black does not excuse their moral failures. A politician should be elected to office based on his policies and character not race.

African-Americans have to start looking past skin color and party affiliation when voting for candidates. Otherwise the Democratic Party will continue to spout empty promises and the advancement of African-Americans and other minority groups will be slow. I will end this article with a quote from Fredrick Douglass when speaking to a black audience in 1889: “we cannot draw the color line in politics. No folly would be greater… the American people will never permit, tolerate, or submit to the success of any political device… calculated to circumvent and defeat the just application and operation of… our government.”