California’s on the brink of economic collapse, and we’re having a statewide election in less than three months. The major party candidates, Attorney General Jerry Brown and former Ebay CEO Meg Whitman are moving around the state campaigning for votes. Yet, the only time I’m hearing what either of them are going to do is on television, and most of it is negative. Whitman has bought her name I.D. and has pulled even with Brown (she’s ahead in some polls).
I know Republicans usually don’t find their way to the hood (neither do Democrats, lately), but Jerry Brown should know his way around. We talkin’ bout Jerry Brown from East Oaktown, right? Jerry Brown who was the hippie, counter-cultural, activist governor from 1975 to 1983, right? Maybe he knew his way around 30 years ago, but to me, he seems a little lost now.
Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe Jerry Brown thinks we should know who he is, when our community has two generations of voters who weren’t voting when he was governor the first time. Some of these voters weren’t even alive. I think it’s time for a new reintroduction to the African American community in Los Angeles. Why? I get the sinking suspicion we’re about to be taken for granted (again). California Gubernatorial candidates aren’t coming around. They’re ignoring the black vote.
We see this dance every election, election after election. Let’s go over how this dance is going to go down. Both candidates are kicking their campaigns into high gear by buying tons of television, radio and mail. They’ll spend millions of dollars for an office that pays a couple hundred thousand, but runs the nation’s largest economy (the seventh largest in the world).
Both candidates have been drop-kicking each other in campaign ads for months. Some allegations appear to be true, and some have been discredited-but all assail the other as unfit (or unprepared) to run the state. There should be a public conversation about that where our community can be involved.
Meg Whitman is threatening to end state pensions with lifetime benefits. I happen to have one of those state jobs with lifetime benefits. I need to understand what the hell she’s talking about. Jerry Brown claims he has the experience to resolve the current state budget crisis. Is he talking about the experience he gained 30 years ago? The world has changed twice in the past 30 years. The state population is almost twice what it was 30 years ago. I need to know what the hell he’s talking about. I can’t learn much from a commercial or a televised debate.
That means if I really want to know what the future of California state government holds, I need my community to have access to these candidates and hear it from their own mouths. That’s a difficult task to accomplish when your community is in the process of being ignored. Not for long though. With the race being a virtual toss-up, both candidates are gonna come a running. And the black community always tips the vote to the winner in close elections. When we’re ignored, we stay at home (reference Mayor Tom Bradley, circa 1982).
Whitman may want the black community to stay home, for a suppressed vote helps her. But if she’s Governor of “all the people” she might want to come out and explain her government reforms, given the state is the largest employer of African Americans in the state. Brown may think that black’s historical anti-Republican voting pattern will default to him. Not necessarily. This is about to be a forced conversation.
This election is both candidates to win, or lose. Both candidates will look at politicians or preachers to act as surrogates for their campaigns. Bad idea. Both candidates will do the church “drive-by” thing, infringing on black people’s prayer and not have to worry about rebuttal in the pulpit. Bad idea. Both candidates will try to flood the mailbox hoping that repetition gets the vote out with their name on the voter’s lips. Bad idea.
The best idea is to engage us on a different level, not broker us and not ignore us. The black community likes to see who they’re voting for, and not just during election time. But if there is ever a time we should see a candidate in person, it’s election time. I KNOW it’s not just me that feels like my community is being ignored by my gubernatorial candidates. Well, we wanna to talk to them—even if they don’t want to talk to us. And it’s about to become a campaign issue. If they want us to force the conversation, we will.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Politics. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com.
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