In its turbulent search for a new strategy to re-win the majority in American statehouses and the U.S. Congress, the Democratic Party, both national and state levels, has finally begun to acknowledge the light that has been steadfastly flashing in its face. The answer to restore Democratic victories is to give special importance to women and Democrats of color, both African American and Hispanics.
It was these communities, especially African American women, who spearheaded grass-roots organizing in Alabama and Virginia and got out the Black vote which brought significant electoral victories in both states, and in New Jersey, for that matter. Roy Moore, the odious Senate candidate from Alabama, essentially lost because Black women out-organized everybody else in a red state with a large Black belt voting population.
Remember that Alabama was the home of the first all-Black political party in the 1960s—the Lowndes County Freedom Party, with its white flag with a Black Panther symbol on it. It was organized to do battle with Alabama and the over-all Southern strategy of the White Primary, concocted by former Confederates to suppress the Black vote and to nullify the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The LCFP had advocated intense and sustained Black voting, especially in Black Belt areas where Black folk were in the majority.
So there was that history in Alabama just waiting to be tapped. Then there was the issue of the Birmingham, Ala. 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four Black girls and wounded many more. The Klan got away with that murder for several years, then got brought to justice first by a white prosecutor named William Baxley, then next by the Democratic candidate in the recent U.S. Senate campaign, Doug Jones. The leader of the KKK in the area, Robert Chambliss, was convicted and sent to life in prison. Doug Jones, a little later, courageously prosecuted and convicted two more of the participants in the church murders, ignoring KKK-inspired threats to his life and that of his family. The fourth defendant died in 1994, hopefully to be punished in hell.
Thirdly, Roy Moore proudly proclaimed that life was better in Alabama and the South when slavery was the norm in the land. This is an insult to Black people and a no-no. All that was needed was to bring in political organizers who knew how to communicate with Black folk over those facts and keep Black voters energized through the election. Those things happened and they were no accident. The Democratic Party candidate got 98% of the vote of Black women and 93% of Black men. Thirty percent of the total vote in Alabama was by African Americans.
In Virginia, a similar but distinctive story occurred. Here the organizing issue was the Confederate “hero” statues. Black folk were sick of them and the monuments had to go. In the governor’s race, over 87% of Black votes went to the winning Democrat and to the Black Lt. Governor. In the House of Delegates (Virginia’s State Assembly), surging Black voter turnout helped flip 16 Republican seats to the Democrats. The Black communities in Virginia were organized, energized and kept fully involved.
The Democratic Party is now taking a close look at how those results were achieved, and how to strategize on recreating them across the country, especially for the 2018 mid-term elections. Just running against Donald Trump will not be enough.
Black folk have been loyal to the Democratic Party for over 90 years. Finally, the Party is beginning to understand the value of that resource. To win, Black folk must be fully in.
It’s about time.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.