Politics in the United States has taken a serious swing to the ultra-right with the control of key sections of the United States Administration by a neo-conservative group of Republicans. Now the emphasis is on entrenching the power of the ruling oligarchs and fulfilling the old "Contract With America." President George Bush and the Republic and Democratic Congress has been working overtime to balance the budget on the backs of the poor while giving big business and special interest groups generous tax breaks in the hope that the so-called "trickle down" effect would materialize.
Caught in this new-fangled brand of economics are entire Black communities who receive a disproportionate share of the American pie in the first place. Cuts in MEDICARE and welfare have weakened the public safety net that once protected America’s poor and vulnerable. Disproportionately hit are the poorest of the poor in Black communities across the nation as lines to public soup kitchens have become longer and longer.
Blacks have not faired much better under the Democrats either, never mind the delusions of many who assert that Black folks would be better off if the control of both Houses was in the hands of Democrats. It is nothing more, to coin a cliche, than six of one and half a dozen of the other. The history of Black people in the political mainstream of America provides ample proof that the interests of Black people have not be adequately served by these two parties – Republican or Democrat. Furthermore, history has proved conclusively that Blacks have been used time and time again by both parties and have nothing to show for it in 2007.
Blacks first entered the electoral arena in 1868 and were supporters of the Republican Party. The Black windfall for the Republican Party came with the enfranchisement of millions of former slaves, almost all residing in the South.
Their trust and love for the Republican Party at that time was historically justifiable in that the emancipation proclamation, granting them freedom, was signed into law by a Republican president as was the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment which completely abolished slavery. And too, it was the Republican Party at the time which emerged as the champion of Black rights in the segregated South, especially during the Reconstruction Period.
But more importantly it was the Republican Party which actively enlisted Blacks to its ranks and courted the Black vote. The party used its resources to make sure that Blacks voted in key elections and in this way the Republican Party inducted the Black masses into the political mainstream of American politics.
But by 1876 the Republican Party’s interest in Blacks began to wane and things came to a head about fourteen years later when the party split into two factions - the "lily white" and "black-and-tans." With the honeymoon now over there came a period of heightened hostility to Blacks who were charged with corruption, concerned only with patronage, and with all and sundry problems which the "lily white" faction could dream up. Because they were not wanted in the Democratic Party most Blacks continued to vote Republican even when they were systematically being kicked out of the party by hostile white interests.
On the other hand the Democratic Party developed in the South as an alternative party to the Republican Party's "niggerism." In those days the Democratic Party actively discouraged Blacks from joining it and did nothing to court the Black vote. But all that changed in 1932 when Blacks shifted their support to the Democratic Party with the election of Franklin Roosevelt who pushed his famous New Deal plan. Hitherto to this, the Democratic Party vigorously opposed Black empowerment and in many cases was closely aligned with elements who visited brutal atrocities on Black people.
Both parties ultimately realized that the Black vote was important. So that by 1940 Democrats were actively courting the Black vote as were Republicans who had suddenly revised their former positions. In cases where Democrats won the presidency they differed little from their Republican counterparts doling out patronage positions to Blacks which was a feature of Republican rule.
And in some cases Democratic presidents who actively sought Black support and votes, promised much and delivered nothing. For example, President Woodrow Wilson in 1912 promised much to gain the Black vote. Once he was in the White House, it became crystal clear that he had used the Black vote to gain political office but that his concepts of self-determination and democracy were confined to white America and did not include Blacks born in America.
Today Blacks have been left hanging again. Locked out of the political process during the Republican Reagan/Bush years, they supported a Democrat in the person of Bill Clinton. He like his predecessors actively courted the Black vote, even though he was careful not to anger and alienate the "democratic rednecks" in the party. Apart from the few Black positions nothing has really changed.
Now with the Democrats in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate there is a glimmer of hope that things will be better for Black people. But the Black community must keep its fingers crossed because the established power relations are exceedingly hard to reform, much less revolutionize. The position that this “ole boys club” will only serve the interests of the financial Oligarchs is well founded and valid. I have no optimism that this is about to change simply because the Democrats are in control. Call it remembering the historical past or simply a creeping distrust.