The Politics of Progress

By Barney Blakeney

I’m getting calls from a lot of people promoting their presidential candidate. It’s that time again and they all want publicity. Ain’t nobody talking about no money though! Black folks need to understand politics is all about money – who makes it and how.

It seems like everybody’s trying to get their lil piece of the pie, except Black folks. There are some Black folks trying to get theirs, but they ain’t looking out for the rest of us. They’re trying to get their own lil piece. Perhaps more critically than at any other time in our history in this country, Black folks need to be super sharp about who they support and why. We all know there are some Black folks out here talking about being Black, but only are concerned about the green – for themselves!

What is it the old folks used to say, “All closed eyes ain’t sleep and all smiling faces ain’t smiling with you.”

So I’m listening to South Bend Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Senator Kamala Harris recently in my effort to learn more about the 20-some odd Democratic candidates campaigning for nomination as the 2020 presidential candidate and they’re saying all the right things. But I’m wondering – first if they’re sincere about what they say, and secondly, if they actually believe they can follow through on the captivating conversation. Talk is cheap and we never should get fooled by the hype.

On a recent Sunday morning news program former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said it is time several of the 24 Democratic candidates for their party’s nomination throw in the towel and go home. Those candidates have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the nomination, so why stay in the race. I’m no political expert, but remember all politics ultimately is about money. The first thing that comes to my mind is the donations that come to their campaigns can be used another time – perhaps for campaigns in races they’re more likely to win. And the exposure those candidates get from the presidential campaign is invaluable.

That happens here at home as well. I asked myself during the 2018 elections why some Black candidates we all know well, conducted fundraisers when they had no opposition? Some never have had opposition! I got the feeling contributors were being asked to donate to their future job security. They took our money in the name of supporting Black candidates. The heck with supporting a Black candidate if that Black candidates ain’t supporting us!

We’ve had 50 years of supporting ineffective, inept, incompetent and self-serving representation – all in the name of supporting the ‘Black’ candidate. That chicken is going to come home to roost in some excruciatingly profound ways in the November 5 Charleston and North Charleston municipal elections.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate supporting that other man’s candidate against the one who looks like me when all things are equal. But we have elected the same Black people to office for the past two or three decades who have done very little to move the needle forward for our community. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way all the time and expecting a different result each time.

We have failed and continue to fail to identify, recruit, groom and elect representation that can keep the needle moving forward. This isn’t rocket science, people. Just do the math – ask yourself have conditions in your community improved since the election of your current representative. I’ve had two elected officials ask me for their support. Their reason for seeking re-election – they wanted the pay. As Christie said, it’s time for some of our people go home.

Buttigieg said something on the subject of intergenerational activism that made me think. He said as younger people enter the political and activists arenas they must lean on the experience of older people who have been engaged in those activities longer than many of the young ones have been alive. And he added they must be unafraid to bring new ideas to the table.

Hearing that I thought about some stuff I’ve heard from young activists in our community. Us old farts must realize we have to move out of the way, teach the kids and hold their hands while allowing them to make minor mistakes. Our activist organizations aren’t social groups where individuals carve out fiefdoms, hold leadership positions for lifetimes and even bequeath those positions to their children and family members.

Other groups groom their young to take over where they leave off to insure that progress is ongoing. Black folks too often fail to do that so every new generation of Black folks has to start over. The story of America is a classic example of multigenerational progress toward specific goals. Black folks are Americans yet are under-represented participants in that multigenerational progress. Why? Better yet! Why not?

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