Educate, Organize, Mobilize – Last week my article, If Apathy is the Issue, What is the answer? addressed a major issue identified at our first Voter Rights forum. This week I’ll address the same issue with the objective of leading to an analysis that will help targeted voters to find the “commonality of purpose” needed to improve voter participation.
Amos 3:3 poses the question of whether people can walk/work together effectively if they’re not in agreement regarding their intended goal. That is, must they have commonality of purpose to pursue the same goal? The logical answer is no if they are pursuing a common goal for different purposes. However, if the goal changes or fails to remain valid for either party, as Amos 3:3 says, they cannot walk/work together.
However, for voters to remain engaged over a longer term, it is natural that their goals will evolve as their participation evolves. When I started working in North Carolina politics nearly 40 years ago many of us constantly debated whether we should pursue politics or economics as our priority for Black progress. The political path became our priority and has resulted in us having more than 600 Black elected officials in North Carolina today. There have always been many more compelling issues that we had to address but none compared to politics and economics.
The economics that communities needed to be healthy and productive became a secondary priority and never developed like our politics. There are many who believe that the lack of our economic progress over the last 40 years has created much of the voter apathy in Black voters. I’m inclined to agree. While we worked together on voter participation to fulfill our political priorities many voters dropped out of the process because they concluded that the economic opportunity that they sought was not coming. This is the point that our commonality of purpose disintegrated and apathy became the order of the day.
This very issue was addressed in depth in a recent New York Times article entitled Who Turned my Blue State Red. (See link No. 1 below). The article addresses a wide variety of issues that impact voter participation but concluded that lower income voters tended to have lower participation.
This suggests that in addition to addressing economics, Black communities cannot ignore other important issues and need to adopt creative community engagement strategies designed to maximize voter turnout. Multiple issues must be addressed and pursued in order to keep a wide range of voters engaged throughout the entire political process. After victory, our politicians must deliver on their promises to protect the credibility of the political process.
The large number of Black elected officials in North Carolina and our limited economic success causes many activist and others to complain that we’ve not gotten fair return on our investment in politics and voting. Back in September 2014 I wrote an article entitled Creating Black Wealth-Vote Your Economics (See link No. 2 below). This article addressed an emotional plea by Earl Graves of Black Enterprise who argued that Blacks should demand and receive more economic opportunity for our political engagement and that so far we’ve not received it.
Our Black communities are in desperate need of substantially greater economic opportunities and it is incumbent upon our Black political leadership to help address this need. I believe the need can be addressed and that our leaders can offer the critical leadership needed to make it happen. We’re at an “all hands on deck” moment in our fight for voter rights and economic equity and all segments of our community must recognize their responsibility to be a part of the solution.
While considering voter apathy and the impact that inadequate economic opportunity and development have played in sustaining it, I’ve reflected on recommendations that I think should be considered going forward. There are several progressive economic development and wealth creation initiatives that have been tried in the past and that I think should be pursued anew. Today, here in North Carolina with our enormous political power as represented by our Black elected officials and our tremendous social justice movement as represented by the NAACP, our chances for success are much greater than they were in days gone by.
It is my opinion that as a part of our November 2016 pursuits and our need to address voter apathy caused by economic anxiety, we should consider revisiting the NAACP’s Operation Fair Share and the Rainbow Push Coalition’s Wall Street Project (see links Nos. 3 & 4 below). Neither of these initiatives is necessarily the answer to our present predicament, but a fresh look at them by our community leaders may well provide ideas that can succeed today.
If Rev. William Barber is correct and I believe he is, we are in our Third Reconstruction Era. A recognition that we’re in our Third Reconstruction demands recognition that we must have new and creative ideas to address our current barriers to political participation and economic equity. Our new and creative ideas must be pursued with new vigor and commitment.
Our voter rights forums are a part of our way forward and should be embraced as one of our new and creative ideas. Our forums will address voter apathy and economic equity as we continue to pursue the massive voter turnout needed in November 2016.
Our Voter Rights forums are co-sponsored by the NC Caucus of Black School Board Members (NCCBSBM), the NC Black Elected Municipal Officials (NC BEMO), the NC Association of Black County Officials (NCABCO), and the following publications: The Fayetteville Press, The County News, The Carolina Times, The Winston-Salem Chronicle, The Carolina Peacemaker and Greater Diversity News. Please subscribe to and look to these publications for ongoing coverage as this project continues to evolve and share your ideas on what we can do to improve this project and our coverage.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice. To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/greaterdiversitynews, “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com. Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our page. (December 10, 2015).