Some of you may recall the old General Motors ad campaign, and its slogan: ”This is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.”
The point the company tried to make was that, while the car was still called "Oldsmobile," it had been transformed to be different, in virtually every way, from the vehicle that car buyers used to know.
Unfortunately, with the presidential elections breathing down our necks, the same can be said about the national electoral process. This is "not your father’s politics," and the comparison of the new to the old is certainly not favorable.
It appears now, from my review of the findings of the most recent USA Today/Suffolk poll, published on Wednesday, that I’m not the only one who’s frustrated by the electoral process and the choice of candidates in the upcoming presidential election.
According to the USA Today poll, there may be as many as 90 million U.S. citizens, who are eligible to vote, but who probably won’t, in November, who say it’s a “50-50” chance that they won’t show up, at all, on Election Day.
Just a few years ago, these kinds of sentiments would be unthinkable, especially in the Black community.
You don’t plan to vote? How dare you think such thoughts, given how many Black freedom fighters gave up their lives, so that we could have the right to cast our ballots?
That’s what they used to say. You don’t hear that as much, anymore. What you do hear, in the Black community, these days, is that Barack Obama has had an exceptionally difficult time as the “first Black president,” given all of the right-wing and racist opposition he’s had to deal with, since he’s been in office.
Right after that, the argument usually goes, “Black people have suffered under white presidents since 1787, so how can we expect conditions to change, in just four, short years, under the Black guy?” That's when they throw in: “What did we realistically expect him to do, anyway?”
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the whole point in voting for Barack Obama, in the first place, to change the 225-year pattern of arms-length and disrespectful treatment of our community that had been shown to us by the previous U.S. presidents?
Didn't we finally just want to have a White House resident who had a vision for including Black folks in each of the country’s important issues, as appropriate? Not preferring, just including. I think we wanted, also to have someone in the Office who would make a reasonable effort to reduce the Black unemployment rate, as compared to that of other racial and ethnic groups in this country. I think we may have even had an outlandish idea that a Black president would fairly and rationally figure out a way for Black-owned businesses to participate in more than one-half-of-one-percent of all of the country’s gross sales.
As I recall, back in 2008, when we were really thinking like crazy people, we secretly hoped that schools in Black communities would receive sufficient resources and government attention to bring them up to par with schools in largely white school districts.
I know, I know, that was, perhaps, unreasonable. But some of us were hoping … and trusting, that some of that might actually happen.
Taking a quick glance at the most recent, national unemployment data, however, reminds us that the Hispanic unemployment rate stands at 11 percent; the white unemployment rate is 7.4 percent; and the Black unemployment rate is an astoundingly unacceptable 14.4 percent, twice as much Black joblessness as white joblessness.
But Black voters are apparently not the only ones who have lost faith in both candidates, and in their parties. Indeed, six out of ten of the USA Today survey respondents said they don’t pay attention to politics anymore, because “nothing ever gets done.” Fifty four percent of them are convinced that the political environment is "corrupt;" less than a third of them believe the “two parties do a good job,” and 53 percent now believe that multiple party options, or at least a third party, is necessary to restore confidence in the electoral process.
Perhaps what should be especially frightening to the political “movers and shakers” is that 42 percent of Americans don’t “believe there’s a dime’s difference between the Republicans and the Democrats,” and 37 percent of them say that a national presidential election “doesn't make much difference in my life.”
Oh … and by the way, an overwhelming 87 percent of Americans say they believe that “the recession” is not over, regardless of what the federal government has told us, over the past three years.
And a full 19 percent are now saying that “nothing" could persuade them to vote, in November, for the next president.
In the final analysis, American voters have been beaten down by an unrelentingly cruel economy, an arrogant and oppressive mainstream media that has restructured and subverted the traditional processes for the selection of presidential candidates, the loss of their jobs and homes, and by the outrageous cost of a decent education for their children. And, if you believe the USA Today report, they’re finally unwilling to “play the game” any longer.
To add insult to injury, in 2004, Pew Research Center found that nearly 49 percent of all voters believed that their votes had been counted accurately in national elections. Alarmingly, by 2010, only about 28 percent believed that.
No, this really is not “Your Father’s Politics” anymore … now, CNN and FOX dictate who deserves to get in, or stay in, the national electoral process, whether voters like it, or not.
During the era of “Your Father’s Politics,” American voters actually believed that, if a candidate made campaign promises, there was at least some likelihood that he/she felt an obligation to live up to them. The survey tells us, regrettably, that’s no longer the case — no more delivering on promises, no more trust in the candidates.
If “Your Father’s Politics” were still in effect, chances would be mighty slim that the Republican candidate for U.S. president would be a guy named Romney, who happens to have a 51 percent “unfavorable” rating in the USA Today poll. Back during the days of “Your Father’s Politics,” the U.S. Congress didn’t have the same 51 percent "unfavorables," as it does now.
This should all be especially difficult for Black voters, who wanted so desperately to believe in this political process, from which they had been so systematically excluded, for so many years.
There really was a time, not too long ago, when Black Americans did, literally, risk their lives, if they dared to approach polling places. But, as the Civil Rights Movement gradually took effect, Black voter registration increased from three percent, in 1940, to 29.4 percent, in 1960, and to 43 percent, in 1964.
Perversely, even though an amazing number of Black households had portraits of President Kennedy right up there next to Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ, on their living room walls, most of them still hadn't been eligible to vote for Kennedy, in the 1960 presidential election.
With that background, when Black females produced the highest turnout rate of all voting blocs in the 2008 presidential election, many of us, somewhat naively, believed that we had reached post-racial nirvana, and that we had finally figured out how to make this unwieldy, too-often disrespectful U.S. government responsive to our needs.
Well, it looks like that didn’t really happen, after all.
And, just like the rest of the Americans who make up the 90 million voters who have lost confidence in the candidates and, in the process itself, we’re sitting here, now, wondering whether any of it matters, anymore.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.