The Politics of not raising the level of our political sophistication

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 5/28/2020, midnight

Last week there was a brief but very loud outcry from several members of the young (and not so young) Black political class over Joe Biden’s quip, “If you are voting for Donald Trump, then you’re not Black!”

Mr. Biden was raked over the coals for that remark, some observers even calling it racist. He has since apologized profusely for that “loose-lipped” comment.

Additionally, as reported earlier in Our Weekly, several hundred Black women have recently demanded public commitments from Mr. Biden on important issues in the Black community (choosing a Black female candidate for his vice presidential running mate; promising to select a Black female jurist as his first nominee for an open Supreme Court seat; and a promise to make substantive and permanent inroads to criminal justice reform during his administration). These are all worthy issues.

However, both situations seem to point to a real problem in how many politically inclined Black folk are now handling the opportunity the 2020 election brings. There is entirely too much emotional, not strategic or logical, thinking going on within that community.

The number one priority is to get number 45 permanently out of the White House. Nothing else should be sacrificed for that. Publicly loading Mr. Biden down with issues that are very important to us, but not to everyone else, will substantially weaken him with white suburban voters. Mr. Biden cannot afford to lose the vote of any major constituency and still beat Trump. Remember, that side has no problem with cheating.

But, asked Charlamagne the God, shouldn’t we always advocate for our community? Yes, but there is progressive advocacy and non-progressive advocacy.

Number one, Mr. Biden made a supposition, not a blanket statement. If A, then B statements require A to be true for B to come into play. If there is no A, B is irrelevant, and substantial numbers of Black folk have not and will not vote for Mr. Trump in this or any other election. Criticizing Mr. Biden for “trying to determine who is or is not Black” is just plain silly. That’s not what he said. His public tarring and feathering over the statement was a bridge way too far. Our collective response may have been emotionally soothing, but it was far from politically logical.

Secondly, any of the “demands” made by the political sophisticates among us have to be part of a non-public negotiation, not a blabbermouthed public display. If we really want the things we asked for, then we need to engage in private diplomacy and get sign-off agreements on them before the election, then get out and work our tails off to bring our champion in first. This loud public airing we’re engaged in seems like mere posturing, rather than serious goal-setting, and again, it will only weaken the candidate we want to win.

Successful public policy gambits are most usually the results of such serious behind-the-scenes work, and not just yelling from the rafters about what one wants. Failing to understand how political achievements are won and not won is part of why some Black folk still mouth off that President Obama did not do enough for Black folk while he was in office. Sometimes it seems we’ve run from behind so long that we don’t recognize when we’ve actually won something.

C’mon, people. We’re politically better than this. Can we bring a little more political logic into the mix, and less emotional party mentality to our new position of influence in this election cycle?

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.

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