Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recent Study Says African Americans, Oppressed Have Potential to Impact Mid-Term Elections

Recent study says that people of color have the potential to impact mid-term vote

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Most political pundits and leading corporate-oriented publications are predicting significant gains by right-wing Republican candidates across the United States in the mid-term elections taking place on November 2. This possible shift in power within ruling class politics is attributed to two main factors: the so-called conservative backlash as represented by the tea party as well as the lack of enthusiasm among key constituents within the African-American and Latino/as communities, as well as among working women, who voted overwhelming for the Democratic Party in the last two elections in 2006 and 2008.

However, a recent report issued by the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which focuses on social research involving African Americans and other people of color, indicates that if the voters within these demographic groups come out in large numbers the Democratic Party can maintain its majorities within both the House and the Senate. Various media outlets have carried stories leading up to the elections that reflect the widespread disenchantment with the Obama administration and the 111th Congress for its failure to enact policies that create jobs, keep working people in their homes, provide universal healthcare and quality education to youth.

The study issued by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies on October 14 is entitled “In Anticipation of November 2: Black Voters and Candidates and the 2010 Midterm Elections.” The report was written by David A. Bositis who is a senior political analyst for the Center.

This report begins by noting that “There is widespread agreement that the Democrats—after major gains in 2006 and 2008—are poised to lose a significant number of U.S. House and Senate seats in the 2010 election, largely because of high unemployment and a generally poor economy. It is also widely felt that the extent of those losses will have a major impact on the Obama administration’s ability to pursue its goals through 2012.”

In real terms the social conditions of African Americans have worsened over the last two years. U.S. Census data revealed that overall the poverty rate in the United States stands officially at 15 percent of the population amounting to 44 million people. However, for African Americans the official poverty rate is 25.8 percent, which is approximately 10.5 million people out of a total of 42 million.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies points to the strategic geographic locations where African Americans reside that make their participation key to the fortunes of the Democratic Party. This study says that “The black population is not a nationally distributed one; rather, it is concentrated in less than half of states and in about one-quarter of the U.S. congressional districts in the country.”

As a result of the relatively concentrated distribution of African Americans in the U.S., “There have been several midterm elections in the past 45 years (since the Voting Rights Act was passed) when there were few competitive elections in the states and districts where African Americans lived.”

The study recounts numerous elections in 1986, 1998 and 2008 when the African American vote has been the determining factor in changing the political makeup of the U.S. Congress and the White House. Nonetheless, the current uncertainty over the degree of voter turnout among African Americans and other key constituents that put Obama in the White House with a sizable majority, is clearly a reflection of the inability of the Democratic Party to address the concrete conditions emanating from the national and class oppression that has shaped the political and economic system in the United States.

Other oppressed groups and women have also been targeted in the attempt to maintain Democratic Party control over the Congress. President Obama visited the state of Washington on October 21 in a last minute effort to energize women voters.

According to the Associated Press “President Obama is trumpeting his efforts to help women in the workforce as he looks to rally key Democratic constituencies ahead of the Nov. 2 election. As the economy has changed, Obama says women have made ‘enormous strides’ and now constitute more than half of the workforce. Obama says that means women’s issues are now middle class family issues.” (Associated Press, October 21)

At the same time, U.S. Census figures illustrate without a doubt that the conditions of women are deteriorating with 13.9 percent of them living in poverty, which is the highest rate since 1995. For women of color the rates are far higher with 24.6 percent of African American women and 23.8 percent of Latina women living in poverty.

Over a one year time period, from 2008-2009, 2.3 million women loss their private health insurance coverage. Many of these women were not eligible for Medicaid which left 1.3 million more without any coverage at all.

The current crisis that erupted in 2007 has rendered 8.4 million more people without jobs, serving to reinforce existing inequalities based on race, gender and social class. This loss of jobs coupled with multi-trillion dollar bank and corporate bailouts, along with the ever rising Pentagon budget, has robbed the majority of people in the United States of a stable life and secure future.

Among the youth, who have the highest unemployment rate in the country, particularly among the oppressed nations, a recent CBS Knowledge Networks poll indicated that although 84 percent of those who voted for Obama that are under 30 approved of his job performance, only 44 percent said they would go to the polls. At the same time a Rock the Vote poll taken in September showed that only 34 percent of youth wanted the Democrats to stay in power while 36 percent expressed that it did not matter whether the Democrats or Republicans took control. (Huffington Post, October 22)

Need for a party of the working class and oppressed

What these findings reveal is that African Americans, Latino/as, women and other oppressed segments of the population need is a political party that places them at the center of decision making and the administration of effective power. Oftentimes politicians from both ruling class parties show no interest in the working class and the oppressed communities until election time.

With the crisis in capitalism deepening, workers and the oppressed of all nationalities and genders will look for meaningful answers to the worsening conditions involving job losses, foreclosures and evictions, the lack of health care, school closings and political repression.

A genuine left coalition of the nationally oppressed and the working class must be formed which is independent of the ruling class parties in both theory and political activity. It is only with such an alliance of the people that a real struggle can be waged to reverse the capitalist crisis and build a socialist society.

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