Where are we in political arena?

9/25/2015, 7:14 a.m.
Here is something to think about as we watch the political circus that is currently dominating the news: Black people ...

James Clingman

Here is something to think about as we watch the political circus that is currently dominating the news: Black people are nowhere to be found in the real action, nowhere to be found in determining the candidates from which we will eventually choose to compete for the presidency, and nowhere to be found in the debate questions or answers. We are merely watching from the balcony, as we had to do in the 1950s in segregated theaters and churches.

Have you ever wondered why two small states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have so much impact on the national election? Is it simply because they are the first two states to conduct caucuses and primaries every presidential election year? Is it because they have such a large number of electoral votes? Even though some candidates who win those states do not always get their party’s nomination, these two states are held up as the political “trend-makers” and benchmarks for a candidate’s success.

But think about this: Iowa is 91 percent white and 2 percent black; it has six electoral votes. New Hampshire is 93 percent white and 1 percent black, with four electoral votes. There are 538 electoral votes among the states, 270 of which are needed to win the presidency of the United States. I ask again, why are Iowa and New Hampshire so important in the scheme of things?

Black folks, comprising 3 percent of the total population of these two small states, have absolutely no influence, not to mention power, in what is taking place right now in the political arena. We are relegated to being spectators if we care to watch this show.

The recent Republican debate took place in Simi Valley, Calif., where white cops who beat Rodney King within inches of his life were declared not guilty. Of the 500 people in the audience, there, I saw just five black people in the seats at the CNN debate. Another insult to black voters, or another indication of political impotence?

We are just spectators, brothers and sisters, watching the Democrats and Republicans race toward the finish line in November 2016. They will put on a great show for us as they invoke Rosa Parks’ name and cite the sanctity of the black vote. Each party will try to convince us that it can and will “take care of us” because, God knows, we can’t take care of ourselves. Then, in January 2017, black people will settle in, once again relegated to their plantation of “choice” for four more years, without having gotten one ounce of quo for our quid.

Black people have dug ourselves a deep political hole, and now we must figure out how to get out of it. It really doesn’t matter who wins the highest office in the land — African-Americans will be in the same relative position as we have been under a black President for the last seven years. In other words, we ain’t got nothin’ comin’. Only we can save us, not Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

Because we have tried to play politics without having a strong economic base, we have become impotent and irrelevant. Reflect on the words of T. Thomas Fortune, journalist and co-founder of the National Negro Business League: “No people ever became great and prosperous by devoting their infant energies to politics. We were literally born into political responsibility before we had mastered the economic conditions which underlie these duties.”

The writer is founder of the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce.