No friend of blacks

Minority voters rush to vote for Gore just because he isn't Bush

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Those blacks who’ve bought into the line that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George W. Bush had better think again. NThe logic, according to Democrats and Al Gore supporters, is that by voting for Ralph Nader people will take votes away from Gore and help Bush walk into the White House.

But can any self-respecting black honestly say that blacks have benefited under Bill Clinton and Gore — benefited enough to automatically extend their reign for another four years with no questions asked?

Common view

Clinton and Gore have done in eight years what Ronald Reagan and George Bush only dreamed of (according to the common view that blacks have of conservatives): they ended welfare as we know it, locked up droves of black men, ordered stiffer sentencing for lighter crimes and subtly moved the public discourse away from its previous attention to racial discrimination.

If Reagan had done these things, blacks would have been in an uproar. But because a Democratic administration did them, blacks could only manage a whimper and, before too long, forgiveness.

Many blacks honestly believe that Clinton is the closest thing we’ve ever had to a black president. As long as a white man has a “D” after his name instead of an “R,” many blacks can see no evil. Because Clinton and Gore have that magical letter after their names, many, like parrots, repeat the “prosperity” song ad nauseum, that somehow blacks are better off economically than they ever have been.

The height of this insult occurs when Gore and Clinton claim that the black unemployment rate is at its lowest level in history, somewhere around 7.9 per cent. What they neglect to tell their cheering black audiences is that if increased black incarcerations during their administration are taken into account, the black unemployment rate moves back up to nearly 10 per cent.

Instead of clapping so loudly, blacks should ask what good are a few more jobs paying $8 to $10 an hour if more and more blacks — men and, increasingly, women — are filling jail cells?

Furthermore, how much longer can blacks allow Democrats to earn their votes just by pointing out that the Republican party doesn’t care about the black electorate? Dissing the Republican party and Congress may produce great applause but doesn’t do anything to solve black poverty and a failing criminal justice system.

Clapping loudly

Enter Ralph Nader. In many respects he represents the conscience of the Democratic party that Clinton and Gore have successfully run from for eight years. His campaign raises many of the issues that blacks expected Clinton and Gore to raise eight years ago. His candidacy addresses the rightward drift of the party engineered by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a group started with Gore’s help 15 years ago that turned the party in the direction of corporate interests and moderates and away from the civil rights movement and liberals.

Gore proudly proclaims that he helped write the DLC’s first press release. How many blacks are even aware of the DLC and the hindrance it’s been to the causes championed by black leaders inside the Democratic party? Not many. That’s why Gore gets away with parading his affiliation with the DLC so boldly.

Ralph Nader has a stinging critique of the DLC that every black should listen to before giving Gore a free pass simply because he wears a “D.” Instead of looking at American politics in terms of a narrow-minded Democrat-Republican dichotomy, blacks should look at politics in terms of their own best interests.

Hard look

Sure, such a strategy will find plenty in the Democratic party worthy of support, but it will also reveal plenty to be disgusted about.

I think Nader deserves a long, hard look from black America. I hope blacks will not fall victim to the weak scare tactic that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. While few blacks may realize it today, a vote for Clinton-Gore in 92 and 96 may have been a vote for Bush, or at least for some of the worst policies championed by Reagan and Bush.

And even if fulfilling the Reagan agenda wasn’t Clinton and Gore’s intention, the effect on black America in many ways has been the same as if they’d been Republicans themselves. A look at some of what Ralph Nader is saying makes this abundantly clear.

A good starting point to get familiar with some of Nader’s thinking is his recent address to the NAACP convention (online at

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