by the Rev. Al Sharpton (as told to Charles D. Ellison)
America is no longer under the thumb of the angry white male. It’s browner, open to all sexual orientations, and willing to fight for institutional change. But, will African Americans be left behind?
Once the 2012 election was over, everyone—from the pundits to the voters—finally understood the magnitude of the shift taking place in America. Everyone understood that demographics shaped the outcome of the election and will also shape our future. President Barack Obama’s ability to pull together a diverse and dynamic coalition of women, blacks, Latinos and young people was not only an example of masterful political strategy, it was a testament to the America we live in now. This was the first time in American political history that a presidential candidate had to rally the votes of “minorities” and historically disadvantaged groups to win an election. That is the New America.
The white male vote no longer dominates American politics or elections. In the 1980s and early 1990s, you always heard about this “angry white male.” We were constantly told to fear a largely powerful, vindictive, culturally biased electorate of white males who would unleash their vast numbers and larger sums of wealth and power on minorities. But in 2012, Republicans had a strategy for demographics that no longer existed. They hit the numbers they wanted, but underestimated black turnout and the political rise of the Latino community, as well as the turnout from young people. Think about it: Republicans have been polling voters by calling rotary and analog phone lines when everybody is on cell phones. I can’t even remember my home number because I don’t use the LAN line at home. Republicans just don’t understand what’s happening in the New America. Even post-election, the GOP fails to poll for a new, energized base.
When we look at this conversation about demographics and politics, there is also talk about black America’s relationship with the GOP. But how can black people have a relationship with a party that refuses to take positions that serve our interests? Some argue that we should balance our interests in both political parties, which is absurd. How are you going to call yourself “balanced” when you support a political party that’s against affirmative action and voter rights? How can you balance yourself against what’s in your best interests?
The Democratic Party is the only one that has asked black people to join them and offered to support our interests. Republicans need to compete for us. And we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that we can go on a date with someone who never asked us out.
Our nation is still far from being post-racial, in terms of where race doesn’t matter. African Americans are still in a situation where we are disproportionately on a drag. By that I mean we are still disproportionately victimized by the criminal justice system; we are still disproportionately not in business; we are still disproportionately suffering from chronic disease.