Estimadas/os: These ruminations focus on using our vote intelligently, independently, and selectively, in a principled and disciplined manner. We can’t honestly believe our vote is important and precious and then blindly give those “precious” votes away to a political party that takes our vote for granted.
Likewise, we can’t ethically condemn Republican efforts to suppress the vote of people of color and simultaneously condone Democratic efforts to suppress the candidacies of Latinos and Native Americans. Both of these vile acts violate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act, not to mention common decency.
We either condemn both or we condemn neither.
There are two Democratic Parties (and an appendage)…
The one Democratic Party is comprised of the rank-and-file Democrats—decent folk who are not involved in the machinations of the Party elite. Because they are purposely kept in the dark, these Democrats have no idea what is done behind their backs and in their name.
The other Democratic Party is made up of an elite clique who despises the rank-and-file membership, and in violation of its own rules and tradition intervenes in Primary races, and decides which Democrats to support on race-ethnic grounds, and routinely betray the principles they purport to believe in and subscribe to.
A kind of appendage of the Party can, for lack of a better term, be referred to as sycophants, minions and hangers-on. These are folks who go around parroting the script provided by the Party elite: You MUST[!!!] vote for Candidate So-and-So—no matter how unworthy the person’s record, alliances, attributes, etc., may be—solely because he/she is a Democrat and is the “lesser of evils.”
To put this “lesser of evils” notion in the context of dynamics many of us grew up with…
Many of us grew up during the heyday of the civil-rights movement. Looking at the “lesser of evils” notion in the context of those times illustrates how insulting and pernicious this notion is:
In the 1960s, Republican Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts was the nation’s first African-American U.S. Senator elected by popular vote. A champion of civil rights, Brooke lobbied his Republican colleagues to support the Voting Rights Act and co-authored the Fair Housing Act.
Also in the 1960s:
George Wallace, Democratic Alabama Governor, stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to prevent black students from entering an declared, “…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” And…
Lester Maddox, Democratic Georgia Governor and virulent segregationist, famously decided to close his Pickrick restaurant rather than give in to the “forces of integration.” And…
Eugene Bull Connor, Democratic Sheriff of Birmingham, Alabama (and Democratic National Committeeman for Alabama), used high-pressure hoses, clubs and police dogs to assault black civil-rights marchers and jailed nearly a thousand children who were marching for civil rights. And…
The KKK operated under the auspices of the Democratic Party.
Applying the rationale of the Democratic Party elite and its sycophants, minions, and hangers-on:
Wallace, Maddox, Connor, the KKK were the “lesser of evils,” and Democrats should have demonized civil-rights champion Brooke and stood in solidarity with fellow Democrats Wallace, Maddox, Connor, the KKK.
This isn’t a stretch of logic. It’s exactly where the “Democrats are the lesser of evils and we should support them at all costs, no matter what they do” nonsense takes us.
[Imagine trying to peddle the “the lesser of evils” notion to the civil-rights warriors of the time!]
The Democratic Party routinely discriminates against candidates of color…
In the recent Primary election, the Democratic Party—at the national, state, and Pima County levels—worked assiduously to defeat Democrat Wenona Benally Baldenegro, the only Native American congressional candidate in the country, who would have been the first Native American woman to serve in Congress and the first Native American, man or woman, from Arizona to be elected to Congress.
Officials and representatives of the Democratic Party—at the national, state, and Pima County levels—falsely represented Wenona’s opponent as an incumbent; called Wenona supporters to pressure them to withdraw their support of Wenona; and sponsored fundraisers for Wenona’s Primary race opponent.
Not to mention the behind-the-scenes whispering campaign: e.g., Wenona’s not “electable” because she, unlike her white opponent, chose not to solicit money from Payday Loan, ALEC [the right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers], and other corporate, lobbyists.
In essence, Wenona had two Primary opponents. One was an actual person, the other was the Democratic Party.
An analysis of Democratic Primary races over the period of 2010-2012 reveals that the Democratic Party’s campaign to deny Native Americans a voice in Congress is part of a pattern of race-ethnic discrimination. For the record: except for Benally Baldenegro’s, I was not involved, directly or indirectly, in any of the campaigns I analyzed. [The Atttached Table describes this pattern.]
A representative example: the Arizona Democratic Party denied access to its resources (voter lists, etc.) to a Mexican American congressional candidate because the candidate was “suspect” because he had once been a Republican. Yet, the Party strongly supported at least two (2) white candidates who changed their registration from Republican to Democrat.
Likewise, the Arizona Democratic Party denied access to its resources (voter lists, etc.) to a Mexican American congressional candidate because the candidate was “suspect” because some Republicans supported the candidate. Yet, the Party strongly supported at least three (3) white candidates who openly received support from Republicans (one of these actually aired TV ads touting his Republican support).
The Democratic Party’s attitude toward the candidates of color was brutal: Even when the white candidates stand for what the Democratic Party purports to be against and the candidates of color support the Democratic Party’s position, the Democratic Party always supported the white candidates.
Now, if Republicans systematically discriminated against people of color in this manner, Democrats would pound their chests and scream loud and long…but when the Democrats, the “lesser of evils,” are the ones discriminating against people of color, it’s acceptable? Loyal Democrats are supposed to embrace it?
People do not stop bad behavior on their own…
The Democratic Party gets away with systematic discrimination because no one challenges it. Even some “progressives” mouth the “lesser of evils” line. Which brings to mind Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observation:
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence of the good people.”
Words won’t reach the Democratic Party leadership elite. They are too invested in their culture of elitism and of hand-picking candidates to shove down the throats of the electorate. Only action will.
What would get the Democratic Party to re-think its attitude and actions regarding candidates of color is if enough principled Democrats were to organize as Independent Democrats—i.e., within the Democratic Party but outside of the control of the Democratic Party elite—and…
Give and withhold their votes selectively, on the basis of principle rather than the “Democratic racism is qualitatively better than Republican racism” abomination, and…
Actively oppose candidates, including Democrats, who stand with those whose interests are inimical to our community’s interests, and…
Take on openly and publicly the Democratic Party elite who treat our community as if they own us and take our support for granted…who apply a double standard to candidates of color…who work against our interests even as they demand and expect our support, etc.
The simple truth is that the Democratic Party will only respect us when we make it known to them that they do not own us. Obviously, if the Democratic Party and its hand-picked candidates KNOW we’ll vote for them regardless of what they do, what they stand for, etc., why should they even pretend to respect us?
All politics is local (Tip O’ Neill)…
Disciplined political action is often best exercised at the local level, where its effects are more noticeable and meaningful.
La Raza Unida Party (early 1970s) was a national phenomenon that forced the Democratic Party to address Mexican American concerns. But the LRU’s greatest effect was at the local level, conferring on the Mexican American community a great sense of political empowerment. Columnist O. Ricardo Pimentel recently wrote:
“And this reflects what is perhaps the most important legacy of La Raza Unida: You won’t be heeded if you don’t stand up for yourself. For your community.”
In many instances in our history, the Democratic Party and its ruling elite were complicit in excluding Mexican Americans from being elected to office, even in predominantly Mexican American districts. But principled people have always emerged to confront this political discrimination, resulting in the integration of city councils, state legislatures, county boards of supervisors and other political bodies.
Even as we enjoy the fruits of these principled folks’ work, we should respect their work enough to not let it be rendered asunder.
Hanging out under the table grabbing crumbs, or eating a full meal at the table…
Our history is clear: if enough people refuse to beg for crumbs at the Democratic Party’s table, things will change. Our political behavior has to be driven by the irrefutable fact that our communities have paid their dues—over and over again!—over the years…we have earned a place at the dinner table.
And factoring in the historical and irrefutable fact that our communities often make the difference between Democrats’ winning and losing elections, our place should be at the head of the table!
What’s easy, and what takes courage…
In a previous essay, I noted that in Arizona, it’s easy for Democrats to criticize Russell Pearce, Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, and their partners in hate. No courage required here.
What takes courage…integrity…principles is to confront those who claim to be on our side but who act against our interests…
What takes courage…integrity…principles is to declare loudly and unequivocally that Democratic race-ethnic discrimination IS NOT qualitatively better than Republican race-ethnic discrimination.
Those of us who purport to care about civil rights need to—pardon the cliché—walk the walk and not merely talk the talk. I repeat: Words won’t reach the Democratic Party leadership elite. They are too invested in their culture of elitism and of hand-picking candidates to shove down the throats of the electorate. Only action will.
If not now, then never…
Even as they acknowledge that the Democratic Party’s injecting itself into Primary races to deprive candidates of color the opportunity to be elected to political office is wrong, some folks tell me I shouldn’t discuss these issues during the election season, ignoring the blatant double standard inherent in that notion, viz.:
The Democratic Party’s actions against candidates of color were taken during the election season, precisely because it was election season, with the goal of depriving candidates of color a fair shot at being elected!
In light of that reality, there is no better time than election season to discuss the Democratic Party’s concerted campaign against candidates of color.
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