By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Black Americans and others who want to contribute to the future progressive transformation of our nation and world have an upcoming strategic opportunity to make the critical difference. In less than 60 days, the November elections will be held. Once again, the United States is at a pivotal political moment in history.
The outcome of the 2014 national elections will not only set the stage for the 2016 presidential campaign, it will also determine how the last two years of the Obama administration will play out. Yet, for the majority of 45 million Black Americans who want improvement in our overall quality of life, we must reassert our interests in record numbers at the ballot box.
No doubt there is a reality and spirit of discontentment in the Black community about the many socioeconomic disparities, incidents of fatal racial attacks, increasing disproportionate mass incarceration, and the systematic efforts of right wing groups to suppress the Black vote. But this is not the time to become so frustrated with the politics of racial division and oppression that that we feel alienated and cynical. This is not a time for hopelessness.
Rather, it time for sober analysis and political action. I believe that we should be using the next weeks leading up to the November elections to significantly increase voter registration and to plan for the largest voter turnout possible.
Traditionally, off-year elections spell trouble for the party occupying the White House. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 House seats and six in the Senate. Under George W. Bush in 2006, Republicans lost 30 House seats and six in the Senate.
Too much is at stake for us to stay home in November. All 435 House seats of up for grabs and a third of the Senate. In addition, voters will pick governors in 34 of the 50 states. Who is elected to the House and Senate will determine what President Obama will be able to accomplish his final two years in office.
Black voters are on a roll. According to the Associated Press, Blacks outvoted Whites in both 2008 and 2012. In 15 of the top 25 districts being targeted by Democrats in November, Blacks make up at least 10 percent of the voting-age population, enough voters to provide the margin of victory.
Now, you know why there has been such a well-financed, concerted national effort to suppress the Black vote in America. As we approach November, the potential power of the Black vote across the nation is real, timely and will be decisively important.
Clearly, the consciousness and awareness of the power of the Black vote within the Black American community needs serious revitalization. Sometimes our anger in the aftermath of incidents of racial tragedy, hatred and bigotry engenders a sense of helplessness. It is question now of how to effectively channel our negative anger into positive social and political action.
I agree with the recent statement of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). one of our senior freedom fighter members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who stated, “Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls… You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”
November 4 should, therefore, be a “Day of Reckoning.” We have come too far, gone through too much suffering and made too many sacrifices to get the right to vote to now lose sight of the historic responsibility to participate in this democracy as voters. I believe that young people in particular will turn out their votes in large numbers on Election Day as a means of protesting injustice and affirming the quest for equality and justice. We all should be involved no matter your age or place of residence. Let’s use our voting power to help make our nation and world a better place for our families and communities, and for all of those who cry out for freedom.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the Interim President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.