The Real Deal in Politics

A. Peter Bailey

By A. Peter Bailey

( – With the midterm elections November 6, we Black folks should pay serious attention to observations made by Dr. William Scarborough, president of Wilberforce University and by Professor Harold Cruse in his book, “Plural but Equal”.

In his February 11, 1899 speech at a Lincoln Day celebration, Dr. Scarborough included the following:

“I would be false to the race and my own convictions did I not pause to give the warning that, after all, neither parties nor politics alone can save the Negro. He needs to make a new start in his civil and political career. He must pay less attention to politics and more to business, to industry, to education, to the building up of a strong and sturdy manhood everywhere – to the assimilation generally of all that goes to demand the world’s respect and consideration. He must lop off, as so many incubi, the profession Negro office-seeker, the professional Negro office-holder, and the Negro politician who aspires to lead the race for the revenue that is in it. The best men, the wisest, the most unselfish, and above all, the men of the most profound integrity, and uprightness, must take the helm or retrogression will be the inevitable result.”

Professor Cruse, a visionary political theorist, noted the following in his 1987 book:

“In the game of electoral politics, black leadership has had no issues of political leverage, only numerical voting strength. However, this voting strength has never been predicated on a political power base grounded in tangible economic, administrative, cultural, or social policy issues with the viability of forcefully influencing public policy. Hence, merely winning public office became the one and only tangible goal for black political leaders. Beyond that, black office holders possessed only the pretense of being backed up by substantive political power bases representing issues that would impact on public policy. Thus, the continuing emphasis on the mobilization of black voting strength; thus the ongoing campaign for black voter registration; thus the empty threat that the maximization of black voting strength would somehow alter the course of American political history in race and minority-group issues. However, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964-1965 promised no such grandiose affirmation of potential black political power. While the Voting Rights Act of 1963 did in fact, speed up the mobilization of black voting strength, and opened the doors to the unprecedented growth in numbers of black elected officials (BEOs), these BEOs were catapulted into office as symbols of black civil rights coming-of-age. But, with rare exceptions, they brought nothing with them into political office that bore the least resemblance to black economic, political, and cultural program that meant much to anybody friend or foe, black or white, beyond the politically mundane business as usual stance of the liberal consensus. Following the Sixties, black politicians were suggestive of military leaders whose armies were forever in training (voter registration) but were never readied for participation in the field of battle for substantive goals worth fighting for.”

Think about these expressions as you prepare to vote.

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