By Barney Blakeney
By the time this is published the 2018 general elections will be over so I won’t go into any of the ‘we should-a, we could-a, if we would-a.’ By the time you read this it will be ‘we hafta’ deal with it. I voted early as usual. I work Tuesdays so I always vote early. And I always vote in primary elections, midterm elections and general elections. If I was smarter, I’d be more involved in party elections as well. That’s where the candidates are selected. By the time elections get to the voting public, many of the decisions about who runs for office have been made. Fortunately, the voting public has the final say.
So it’s one day away from the elections and I’m anxious. There are a few races I think will have a more profound impact on our lives than others. I’m concerned that we make the best choices.
William ‘Bill’ Saunders used to say black folks argue whether one person’s white man is better than another person’s white man. Elections have gotten much more complicated than in the days when selected people in black communities could deliver black votes. People still buy elections, but they cost considerably more than $100 and a fish sandwich. The price to the black community always has been, and remains, high.
A couple of things have occurred since I voted several days ago that confirm just how high that price is. I was on the dance floor at the East Cooper Disco Friday night when I met a candidate about whom I’d never heard. I didn’t know the candidate was in the mix. He explained he was running in a single member voting district and focused his campaign on that district. That reminded me how parochial politics has become.
Weeks ago former Charleston County Councilman Lonnie Hamilton gave me some information the late Mount Pleasant community activist Earl Douglas shared about single member district voting. Essentially they agree it hasn’t worked for black folks. More on that later.
A few days earlier I talked with a local political strategist. She said in one election some heavy hitters are pushing a particular candidate as a means of opening a door to something else down the road. I know that some folks plan way ahead while others only see what’s right in front of them. For years I’ve been saying black folks must begin to identify and support leadership with vision. I heard that some native American cultures make decisions based on its impact seven generations into the future.
Earlier tonight I had a heated conversation with a local elected official about economic development. The whole time the official scolded me about insisting on taking actions that under today’s laws are impossible. She didn’t seem to understand that it’s her job to change laws that don’t work for the best interests of her constituents.
I often quote something I heard the late President John F. Kennedy say, “Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see things as they can be and ask why not.” We’ve elected people who retire from serving in public office, but who still haven’t figured out what that means. Our communities pay a dear price when we fail to elect people with vision who have our best interests at heart.
Back in Kennedy’s day our leadership, in its infinite ignorance, allowed the development of a civilian rifle that today is responsible in some of our nation’s most horrendous mass murders–the AR-15. CBS 60 Minutes did a segment on it Nov. 4. That thing is the devil!
It’s not a military weapon and is designed for civilian use. I’m not into weapons, but from that segment I can’t imagine it being used for hunting food–it tears up flesh! It’s quite obviously a weapon designed to destroy human beings, but because of our leadership, it’s available to any fool with the money to buy one.
The day before, I watched a CNN report on voter suppression in America. At the Center for American Progress website I found this statement, “The United States has a troubled history of voter suppression. Prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states used policies such as poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent African Americans from voting. Even after the voting barriers of the Jim Crow era were removed more than 50 years ago, some lawmakers continue to pursue policies that would undermine our nation’s progress.
“Under the guise of tackling voter fraud, 14 states adopted measures to restrict voting ahead of the 2016 election. These measures, including strict voter ID requirements and reductions in early voting opportunities and polling places, created barriers for tens of thousands of low-income citizens and citizens of color. Alarmingly, five of the 14 states have a history of racial discrimination in voting and previously had to seek federal approval before changing their voting laws and procedures.
“Even though studies have shown that illegal voting is a myth, President Donald Trump has called for tougher restrictions on voting. The right to vote is a fundamental pillar of American democracy, but if the new administration succeeds, countless Americans could face barriers to voting ahead of the next election.”
Right now as I write this column, I’m unsure what the November 6 elections will produce – leadership with vision for a brighter future, or the same old same old that will facilitate our slaughter and suppression. I’m cautiously optimistic that those who campaigned for our votes and won their respective elections will work for the good of the American public, but what does that mean? Whatever happens we’ll ‘hafta’ live (or die) with it.