By Barney Blakeney
We’re about two months from the November 6 general election. It’s time to get serious, folks! Candidates are going into the back stretch heading to the finish line. If you don’t already know them, this is a good time to get to know the candidates. The hard and heavy campaigning is about to begin. This is no time for lollygagging.
Most people don’t vote. With almost 400,000 people in the county, there are about 270,000 registered voters. Of those, some 75,000 are non-white. But according to recent voter reports, fewer than 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots in most elections. Even fewer vote in primary elections where the general election candidates are chosen.
I almost can understand why so few people vote. We live in a complicated and confused culture. We promote individuality while at the same time succumb to influences that all but eliminate that individuality. It ain’t even ‘follow the leader’, it’s more follow whatever is around you. The old folks would say we seem to lack the ability to think for ourselves.
So in my effort to figure out what to do in the upcoming general elections, I’ve been asking some people I trust what they know about the candidates I have to vote for in November. I’m in a pretty good position when it comes to information. Being in the newspaper business, I get information about people and stuff all the time. And fortunately I’ve been trained to process that information objectively. But I’m human and like most humans I sometimes let personal stuff get in the way, so I often go to other sources for better understanding.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been asking some people I trust what to do about two local elections where Black candidates are pitted against white candidates. Now I may be a little different from a lot of people, or maybe not. I’ve got enough sense to know that just because you look like me and talk like me that you may not necessarily be for me. Heck, I gotta watch my back around people in my family, much less people in the street! And that friend thing?! I got one friend who’s always got my back and He died 2,000 years ago. I know my momma loves me, but she’s dead too.
Still, I tend to think when it comes to electing people to represent me, I’m better off with those whom I share some commonalities. When it comes to Democrats and Republicans, I have things in common with members of both political parties. Some of my best friends are Republicans and some of my worst enemies are Democrats.
So I asked this one old dude his thoughts about one of the political races in question where a Black candidate is pitted against a white one. Now this old guy has been in the game forever, and he’s been on the frontlines when most of these yahoos out here today weren’t even a dream in their daddy’s mind. He was on the front when being on the front could get you dead. He said the white candidate was the better, but he was going Black.
When I talked with another Black friend, she said she was going with the white candidate. Black/white, Democrat/Republican, all are labels, she said. Going Black just because it’s Black, irrespective of qualifications, is the same thing those other folks have been doing. And us Black folks know how that crap screws up the game, she said. Them folks would make the dumbest white boy on the job supervisor just because he was white and the rest of us had to work double-time around that fool just to make sure things went the way they were supposed to. I talked to a third friend the other day who said the boys in the union ain’t going for that ‘Black like me’ okeydokey. It’s good to know we’re not monolithic, he said. Well I had to take that comment with a grain of salt. Despite that, 70 percent of Black voters vote Democrat almost every election. Technically we’re not monolithic voters. But as a realist, I know that if I can get 70 percent of the Black vote, Black folks don’t have to be monolithic.
Okay so now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. I got an email from Cong. James Clyburn a few weeks ago. Here’s what he said, “In South Carolina, 68,000 African Americans who voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections did not vote in the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections. Even more disturbing is that more than 187,000 registered African American voters did not vote in any of those elections.”
So where am I going with this? I, like a lot of folks who look like me, may be getting all wrapped up around some Black/white local elections, but there are a whole lot more elections ongoing which ain’t even on our minds! They are state and federal elections that will put people in office who will make decisions about our daily lives. We gripe about Trump, but don’t vote! And when we do vote, we either don’t know who we’re voting for or allow some peripheral crap to determine how we cast our ballots.
This midterm election thing is going to determine stuff that will affect our lives for the next couple of decades. We’ve got two months to get on track. Get to know the candidates running for office, think beyond the curve and make the choices that after getting to the finish line, we get the prize and not the surprise. Them folks ain’t playin’ ya’ll.