Monday, October 30, 2006

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Have Democrats neglected black voters? Are black voters (or rather, the lack thereof) to blame for the alleged neglect?

An alarming wake-up call

By Deborah Simmons

Blacks aren't necessarily mad as hell, but they certainly aren't taking it anymore. Times, they are a'changin' — at last.

Shackled to the Democratic Party ever since the "Great Society" ushered in Head Start, the War on Poverty and historic civil rights legislation, black Americans — particlarly those who most benefitted from those heady days of the 1960s — are asking party leaders a profound question: "What have you done for me lately?"

Perhaps nowhere is the unshackling more prevalent than in Maryland's Senate race, where a black Catholic Republican, Michael Steele, and a white Jewish Democrat, Ben Cardin, are head-to-head. While the historic significance of the race is lost on neither party — only Illinois and Massachusetts have elected black senators in modern-day America — the fact that blacks are crossing the partyline to support a Republican is being lost on the Democratic Party.

Indeed, both state and national party leaders were forewarned: Shun Kweisi Mfume's Senate run and we'll vote black. Well, guess what happened after Mr. Cardin got his way? The Democrats began unshackling themselves.

Black Democrats voiced their discontent. In fact, many former stalwarts endorsed Mr. Steele the week after Mr. Cardin defeated Mr. Mfume in the Demcratic primary. Said Judge Billy Murphy, an adviser to Maryland's Republican governor: "Like so many people, who have come out today, I'm sick and tired of being taken for granted." Another Democrat, lawyer A. Dwight Pettit, stood with Mr. Steele, too. Mr. Pettit pointed out, as other Democrats have, the lack of support from Maryland's bluer-than-blue Democratic "bosses." Mr. Pettit's case is especially insightful. Not only did Democratic leaders ignore his candidacy for Baltimore state's attorney in 1978, but they shunned his 1976 nomination for U.S. attorney by President Carter.

Who did they support instead? White candidates. Said Mr. Pettit: "We are on a national stage right now in Maryland to show that if the Republican Party reaches out to African-American communities, they are not foreclosed on immediately. The question is: What has the Democratic Party done for the African-American community."

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