For years, I have joined many others in advancing the position that the
Democratic Party is not the only game in town.
Working people of all hues have invested a lot of time and energy into the party because they have high hopes for the party carrying out its commitment to us. Our strategy must be a dual one: Fighting inside the party to ensure it upholds it mission and carries out it platform while at the same time building an independent force outside the party to represent our collective self-interests and put external pressure on the party.
There is historical precedence for this electoral strategy as it relates to African Americans and others. You had the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), a courageous effort by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and others to establish presence and participation at the 1964 Democratic Convention.
There was also the Peace and Freedom Party, a basically West Coast effort to establish a third party and which still exists. Some may remember it as the party that some Black Panthers ran on during the height of their community organizing. There were also groups like the National Black Assembly (NBA) and the National Black Independent Political Party (NBIPP). One of the factors that lead to the demise of the NBA was the undermining by a bloc of black elected officials.
The success of such groups may be uneven but the sentiment that we must have a presence outside the Democratic Party has been an enduring one.
Many in the black community have been disillusioned by the lack of solidarity with local Democratic leaders to impact our quality of life. Under their 50-state Strategy, the party claims to be committed to building the party “from the ground up, in every single precinct in the country,” providing resources for things like candidate recruitment and voter registration – key elements for building a cohesive base for electoral successes.
Where such a strategy is happening is St. Louis is not exactly obvious, although many can relate to the “ground up” phrase above as in grinding up people and initiatives that threaten the self-serving political agendas of office-holding Democrats.
One aspect that is becoming troubling is the way the redistricting map has been playing out for the last couple of Census cycles. A disturbing trend seems to be emerging and that is that black women are being targeted for elimination.
This happened after 1990 when Aldermanic candidate Kayla Mays Madkins’ block was taken out of the 22nd Ward, after 2000 when Alderwoman Sharon Tyus’ entire ward was obliterated and relocated to South City, and most recently
with Committeewoman Angela Newsome’s block being taken out of the 26th Ward.
On the state level, Democrats couldn’t get it together either and are stuck with a map basically drawn to strengthen the Republican Party and a few select Dems.
At a time when our communities are hardest hit by housing foreclosures, high unemployment, attacks on all levels of education and the list goes on, we need a united strategy in the face of a Republican agenda that threatens the economic and political progress of oppressed citizens.
We still must hold all of our elected officials accountable (even if we didn’t vote them and even when they don’t specifically represent us) or we can continue to expect the crumbs we get. To simplify, we must support those who support us especially in this time of crisis.
The words of Mississippi NAACP Chair Aaron Henry ring true today, when the white state Democratic Party picked two people from the newly formed MFDP to be seated as at-large delegates at the National Democratic Convention in 1964. The racist plan was soundly rejected. Said Henry, “This is typical white man picking black folks' leaders, and that day is just gone."