Bob Wing

The Importance of the Fight for the South: Why It Can and Must Be Won

This report was prepared in March 2015, prior to the 2016 election season that eventually resulted in Donald Trump’s victory. However, the right-wing capture of the presidency makes this report's main arguments even more important. The far right, racism, militarism, inequality, and poverty are all centered in the South. The majority of African Americans, the main protagonists of progressive politics in this country, live in the South. And the South has more electoral votes, battleground state votes, population, and congresspersons than any other region. The South is changing rapidly, giving rise to more progressive demographic groups, especially black and Latino migrations, LGBTQs and urbanites, as well as a growing Democratic vote. These trends can only be maximized if the importance of the South is understood as a strategic necessity and the chance to win state by state is acknowledged and acted upon. Hard as the fight is, downplaying the Southern struggle is a losing political strategy and forfeits the moral high ground on the biggest issues facing the country.

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Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016

On the left and within progressive movements there were two immediate responses to Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections. First shock, frequently accompanied by despair. How could an openly racist, misogynist authoritarian—personally unstable to boot—be elected president? Second, anger with the Democrats for the sort of campaign they waged. At that point, however, a division emerged around a third point: what, we asked, was the source of Trump’s victory? And even more important, what are the strategic implications?

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The White Elephant in the Room

The 2004 presidential contest was a warning shot across the bow of all progressives. While the president and the Republican pundits vastly overstate their "mandate," progressives need to become clear on the motion of racial politics if we are to get ourselves in shape for the coming battles.

Many spin doctors would have us believe that the story of the 2004 election turns on evangelicals and moral values, the better to advance their rightwing agenda in both the Democratic and Republican parties, not to speak of the halls of power.

But an examination of the exit polls shows something very different (though not at all new): the centrality of race in U.S. politics. The bad news is that the Republicans, trumpeting their program of aggressive war and racism, swung the election by increasing their share of the white vote to 58 percent. This represents a four-point gain over 2000; a 12-point gain over 1996 and a grim18-point gain over 1992.

The good news is that people of color – African Americans, Latinos, Native peoples, Asian Americans and Arab Americans – surged to the polls in unprecedented numbers and voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the Bush agenda despite an unprecedented Republican attempt to intimidate them. People of color constituted about 35 percent of new voters and, despite their dazzling diversity, showed uncommon political unity.

A key lesson of this election is that progressives and Democrats need to stop chasing the Republicans to the right and instead adopt a clear vision that mobilizes our main social constituencies and wins new allies. Only a long term strategy that draws deeply and skillfully from the high moral ground of peace, jobs and equality and refuses to cede the South and Southwest to the right can enable us to staunch the country's longstanding movement to the right. Otherwise what Lani Guinier calls the "tyranny of the (white) majority" will continue to lead us into authoritarianism and empire.

The bitter truth is that the election marks a substantial and dangerous victory for the rightwing forces in this country. Despite a presidency marked by numerous impeachable offenses; despite daily exposure by the press over many months of the administration's lying and incompetence; despite both a disastrous war and an unprecedented loss of jobs; despite an impressive effort by the Democrats, unions and allied groups to mobilize and protect the vote; despite a massive voter turnout led by African American voters; despite the fact that people of color constituted 23 percent of all voters as opposed to 19 percent in the last election, the president turned a 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory and the Republicans increased their majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Progressives have much to be proud of in our tremendous effort and substantial impact in the 2004 presidential election. But we must also face the fact our loss was not the result simply of the Republicans having more money or of a low voter turnout. The Republicans flat out organized us and methodically found white voters receptive to their racist program of "permanent war on terrorism at home and abroad."

The Myth of the Evangelicals

There has been much talk by the punditry about how the evangelicals were the key to the Republican victory. They counsel the Democrats to move to the right to remain politically competitive. There was indeed a tremendous mobilization of Christian religious conservatives (and National Rifle Association members) to work the campaign for the Republicans. They were the critical ground troops for the Republicans but they were not the critical voters.

Alan Abramowitz points out, "Between 2000 and 2004, President Bush's largest gains occurred among less religious voters, not among more religious voters." Among those who attend church weekly or more, his gain was only one point. But among those attending services a few times a month he gained 4 points. From those attending a few times a year, he increased his share by 3 points and from those who never attend services he racked up a 4-point gain.

The emphasis on the evangelical vote is a smokescreen motivated by the attempt by Republicans (and conservative Democrats) to move the country rightwards. Meanwhile, most pundits, left and right, refuse to squarely face the white elephant in the room: race.

The Republican victory turned almost exclusively on increasing its share of the white vote. In 2000 Bush won the white vote by 12 points, 54-42; in 2004 he increased this to a 17-point margin, 58-41. That increase translates into about a 4 million vote gain for Bush, the same number by which Bush turned his 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory this time around.

This increase came mainly from white women. Bush carried white men by 24 points in 2000 (60-36) and increased that margin by only one point in 2004 (62-37). But he increased his margin of victory among white women from only 1 point in 2000 (49-48) to 11 points in 2004 (55-44). This accounts for a 4 million plus vote swing for Bush. (Women of color favored Kerry by 75-24.)

Another overlooked exit poll result is that Kerry actually increased the Democrats' share of the vote among rural and small town voters and held steady among suburbanites. However, his share of the vote in cities fell considerably. In cities of 500,000 or more Kerry won 60 percent of the vote, compared to 71 percent for Gore. Bush increased his big city vote by 13 points, from 26 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2004. We are apparently looking at a significant rightward motion among white women in big cities, a real blow to progressive strategy.

What Happened with the Latino Vote?

The other issue that has disguised the centrality of race in this campaign has been the National Exit Poll (NEP) survey of the Latino vote. The poll concluded that Latinos voted for Kerry by 53-44, a steep decline from Gore's 62-35 victory among Latinos in 2000. But the NEP's results are self-contradictory. Larger Latino exit polls show a tremendous Latino turnout that went for Kerry by as much as 68 percent.

Since the NEP polls only 13,000 voters, the size of the sample for Latinos was very small and therefore probably not very accurate. Latinos make up eight percent of the electorate, and their geographic location (more urban) and income/education (lower) are quite different from the majority white population that shapes the polling sample.

In addition, the NEP does not include the numerous Latino nationalities in appropriate proportions. This is important because these nationalities differ politically. For example Cubans tend to vote much more Republican than all other Latino groups, while Puerto Ricans tend to vote more Democratic.

More importantly the NEP's conclusion about the national Latino vote is not compatible with its own state-by-state polling results. For example, the NEP says that Bush won a mind-bending 64 percent of Latino votes in the South, the region with the most Latino voters (35 percent of the national total). But it simultaneously reported that Bush won 56 percent of Latino votes in Florida, the state where Cuban Republicans make up most of the Latino vote and 59 percent of the Latino vote in Texas. Something is clearly wrong when it is reported that the two states where Latinos are most likely to vote Republican voted less Republican than the South as a whole.

Indeed it is statistically impossible for both the NEP's results for individual states in the South and its conclusion that 64 percent of all Latinos in the South voted for Bush to be correct.

The William C. Velásquez Institute, as it has for many elections, performed a much larger exit poll of Latinos. The Institute polled 1,179 Latino respondents in 46 precincts across 11 states, and took into account the unique demographic characteristics of Latinos. Its survey concluded that Kerry won the Latino vote by 68-31, a strong showing in the face of unprecedented efforts by Republican operatives and Catholic priests to sway Latinos the other way.

It also found that 7.6 million Latinos voted, a record number that represents an increase of an impressive 1.6 million (27 percent) over 2000. This turnout was even more remarkable considering the widespread attempts by Republicans to intimidate Latino voters and the chronic shortages of Spanish language ballots.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Velásquez Institute, concludes, "President Bush tried unsuccessfully to increase his support among Latinos. The Democrats' message appears to have resonated with Latinos."

No Black Breakthrough

The Republican spin-meisters, as well as some "centrist" Democrats, are even claiming a Republican breakthrough among African American voters based on appealing to conservative Christian values. However, veteran political consultants Cornell Belcher and Donna Brazile counter: "Those who trumpet inroads by Bush into the African American vote ignore history and show a strong prejudice against basic arithmetic."

The NEP concluded that Kerry won the black vote by an overwhelming 88-11 percent. Although this is two points fewer than Gore won in 2000, those two points are well within the margin of error of the poll. Even if correct, the results indicate that Bush received a lower percentage of the black vote than Nixon, Ford, Dole or Ronald Reagan in 1980.

This outcome is even more notable when one considers that, according to a Nov. 17 public memo by Belcher and Brazile, fully 60 percent of African Americans in the key battleground states, where the Republicans messaged heavily against abortion and gay marriage, consider themselves "born again Christians."

Their polling also indicates that, "The more likely African Americans are to be frequent church goers, the more likely they are to identify themselves as a strong Democrat." Clearly when pundits argue that the Republicans won by appealing to "moral values" or "evangelicals," they should really qualify their statements racially.

Perhaps most importantly, Belcher and Brazile point out that more than three million new black voters thronged to the polls in 2004, accounting for more than 20 percent of the total voter increase. They also erased the traditional 6-10 point voter participation gap between whites and blacks and increased their percentage of all voters from 10 percent in 2000 to almost 12 percent this year.

Black voters defeated the unprecedented Republican voter intimidation and suppression effort in the run-up to the election. Belcher and Brazile conclude that, "The real story is the reawakening of civic participation by African Americans in 2004."

Asian American Trends

Asian Americans also surged to the polls in historic numbers and, in all their great internal diversity, voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. Like most immigrant groups, most Asians have historically registered and voted Democratic. However, as their incomes rose and the percentage of Asian voters who had fled Asian socialist countries climbed as a result of the 1965 immigration reform act, many became "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s. By the 1990s a higher percentage of Asians were registered as independents than any other racial/ethnic group.

Asians were not included in national exit polls until 1992. In that election, won by Clinton, their Republican and independent bent showed through, with Bush Sr. receiving 55 percent of the Asian vote, Perot 15 percent and Clinton only 31 percent. However, since 1992 Asians have turned strongly toward the Democrats. Clinton won 43 percent in 1996, Gore won 54 percent and Kerry at least 58 percent. This trend is probably connected to the hard right turn of the GOP in the 1990s, especially its fierce attacks on immigrants.

The NEP sample of Asian American voters was tiny, as Asians represent only 2-3 percent of all voters. By contrast, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund conducted a multilingual, non-partisan poll of 11,000 Asian voters in eight states. Mindful of the diversity among Asians, it surveyed them in 23 Asian languages and dialects as they left 82 polling places in 20 cities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Michigan and Illinois.

AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said: "The record turnout of Asian American voters demonstrated our community's extraordinary interest in the electoral process this year." A tremendous 38 percent of Asian voters reported that they were first time voters despite what AALDEF called "an array of barriers that prevented them from exercising their right to vote."

The poll found that Asian Americans favored John Kerry over George Bush by 74-24 percent. First timers voted for Kerry by 78-20. A Los Angeles Times poll of 3,357 California voters found that 64 percent of Asian Americans voted for Kerry and 34 percent for Bush.

Native People Turn Out in Force
The National Congress of American Indians spearheaded Native Vote 2004, a nationwide voter registration and turnout effort. In a press release dated Nov. 3, NCAI President Tex Hall reported, "Native voters turned out to the election polls in greater numbers for this election day than any other in history." The release documented voter turnout successes across Indian country, including a doubling of Native voters in Minnesota. This show of political force was especially impressive considering widespread reports of Native voter intimidation by Republicans.

Although no exit polls on Native peoples are available, the county-by-county map of the 2004 vote indicates that the Native vote was largely Democratic. In addition, the NEP results by race shows the "Other" vote (which includes but is not limited to Native voters) as going for Kerry by 57-43. A Democratic Native vote would be in line with historical trends and pre-election polling.

The NCAI states that "The 2004 election will be the first time Native votes will be quantified in a way to benchmark the population for future elections" and that "rising political clout [by Native voters] will only grow going forward."

Arab Turnaround

The only available analysis of Arab American voters indicates a major political about face by this group. According to a Zogby International poll, George Bush carried the Arab vote by 46-38 in 2000, with a strong 13 percent choosing Ralph Nader. The final Zogby poll for 2004 found Kerry winning by a landslide 63-28-3.

Arab voters contributed to Kerry's slim victories in Michigan, where they represent 5 percent of voters, and Pennsylvania, where they constitute 1.5 percent of the electorate. The Zogby poll indicates that Bush carried Arab Orthodox voters by one point, Arab Catholics favored Kerry 55-34-5 and Arab Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, 83-6-4. Both immigrant and U.S. born Arab voters went strongly for Kerry.

There are no figures available on Arab American voter turnout but, according to the Arab American Institute, there was an unprecedented Arab Get Out the Vote effort spearheaded by Yalla Vote. The Institute reports that Arabs organized GOTV efforts in 11 states that directly contacted at least 300,000 Arab American voters.

The Bush administration has rudely informed Arab Americans that they, like other immigrant groups from the Global South before them, are not just part of the "melting pot." They are also a group that is singled out by the government, the media and much of the public for racist stereotyping and harsh treatment.

As they have been increasingly treated like a racially oppressed group, Arab Americans have responded by voting like other people of color.

Taken together, people of color represented 23 percent of the total vote, but they accounted for about 35 percent of Kerry's tally. Their sense of political urgency was demonstrated by the fact that they represented about 35 percent of first time voters in this election. They are, unquestionably, the main base of the Democratic Party and the most avid anti-Bush constituencies.

White people and people of color are tremendously diverse groups and neither vote uniformly, but they are clearly trending in opposite political directions. How can we staunch the one and encourage the other?

LOOKING BACKWARD, LOOKING FORWARD

The political map of Election 2004 has a depressing but telling resemblance to the pre-Civil War map of free versus slave states and territories. And, although blacks and other people of color now have the right to vote, the outcome of the electoral college vote in the South shows that the 55 percent of black voters who still reside there have as little impact on the presidential race today as they did when they had no right to vote at all.

The same disenfranchisement afflicts Latinos in the Southwest and Native voters in the heartland. Quiet as its kept, the racist remnants of slavery and the Monroe Doctrine are alive and well in the political life, institutions and consciousness of Americans of all colors and classes up to today.

Racism – at home and abroad – is a central element of the Republican "moral values" and strategy. And racism is conciliated if not actively promoted by the Democratic focus on winning more white voters by moving to the right while taking voters of color virtually for granted.

The Democratic refusal to mount a fight for electoral reform and for the Southern vote leaves all its residents to the tender mercies of racist white fundamentalists, oil magnates, sugar barons and militarists. And it disarms progressives' ability to invoke the political and moral weight of the fight for racial and economic justice that still has deep Southern roots. And so it also is with urban racism and the burgeoning issue of immigrant rights concentrated (though by no means exclusively) in the Southwest.

It is about time for progressives, including those in the Democratic Party, to show the same basic common sense that the right has demonstrated. We should prioritize the issues and organization of our most powerful social bases as the foundation upon which to extend our influence to the population at large. It is time to stop chasing the Republicans – and the money – to the right. It is time to develop and fight for a coherent progressive political vision and set of policies that appeal to the positive sentiments of all people, and to fight for this vision over the long haul.

The fight for social and economic progress now, as in the past, cannot be won without challenging the racist, militarist right in its historic Southern heartland and its deep Southwestern echoes. We must have the confidence that skillfully doing so will win increased support from whites as well as people of color.

This is not just rhetoric. The future of our country and the well-being of the world depend on us. We cannot stop the right's incessant drive to dominate the world's resources and to steamroll all opposition to that program unless we pose a clear alternative. A powerful vision of peace, jobs and justice is our only chance to mobilize the democratic sentiments and courage of all the people of our country.

The Color of Election 2000

What if there was an election, and nobody won?

Thank you, Florida, for exposing as fraud the much-vaunted sanctity of the vote in this country and placing electoral reform back on the country's agenda. Reports out of Florida show that people of color cast a disproportionate number of disqualified votes. On election day, black and Haitian voters were harassed by police, their names removed from the rolls, and their ballots left uncounted by outdated machines. Thirty-five years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, racist violations of election law are rampant and should be pursued to justice in Florida and elsewhere.

But beyond these immediate issues, this election reveals again just how central race is to U.S. politics and how racism is institutionally structured into the electoral system. The election reaffirms that people of color are the most consistent liberal/progressive voters in the country and that their clout is increasing -- but that electoral racism effectively nullifies almost half of their votes. The Civil Rights movement destroyed the monopoly over power by whites, but the tyranny of the white majority is still institutionalized in the winner-take-all, two-party, Electoral College system.

Unless we place fighting electoral racism at the top of the racial justice agenda, we cannot challenge the political stranglehold of conservative white voters or maximize the growing power of people of color.

By the Numbers

The idea that race and racism are central to American politics is not just a theory that harkens back to the days of slavery. It's a current-day lived reality that is particularly evident in this country's biggest and most sacred political event: the presidential pageant.

According to the Voter News Service exit polls for Election 2000, 90 percent of African Americans voted for Gore, as did 63 percent of Latinos, and 55 percent of Asians. (No exit poll data on the Native American vote is available, but most have historically voted Democratic.) Combined, people of color accounted for almost 30 percent of Gore's total vote, although they were only 19 percent of voters.

Latinos, the country's fastest growing voting bloc, went heavily Democratic -- even in Texas -- despite extensive efforts by the Republicans to sway them. Most Asians followed suit. People of color are becoming a larger portion both of the U.S. population and of the electorate, and voting largely in concert with each other in presidential elections.

On the other hand, whites constituted almost 95 percent of Bush's total vote.

Conventional electoral wisdom discounts race as a political factor, focusing instead on class, the gender gap, union membership, etc. But, the only demographic groups that had a fairly unified vote -- defined as 60 percent or more for one of the candidates -- were: blacks, Latinos, Jews (81 percent for Gore), union members (62 percent for Gore), residents of large cities (71 percent for Gore), and white males (60 percent for Bush). All but union members and big-city residents are racial or ethnic groups.

And, the large numbers of people of color in unions (about 25 percent) and big cities largely account for the heavy Democratic vote of those demographic groups. White union members and city dwellers vote to the left of whites who live more racially isolated lives, but they barely tilt Democratic. Similarly, women voted 54-43 for Gore, but white women actually favored Bush by one point. Women of color create the gender gap.

The same can be said of the poor: although 57 percent of voters with incomes under $15,000 voted for Gore, poor whites -- who make up just under half of eligible voters in this category -- broke slightly for Bush. The income gap in presidential politics is thoroughly racialized. As the sociologist William Form pointed out long ago, if only a bare majority of white working-class people voted consistently Democratic, we could have some kind of social democracy that would provide much more social justice than the conservative regimes we are used to.

Despite the pronounced color of politics, Ralph Nader (and his multi-hued progressive pundits) blithely dismiss the fact that he received only one percent of the votes of people of color and that the demographics of his supporters mirrored those of the Republicans (except younger).

Electoral College: Pillar of Racism

The good news is that the influence of liberal and progressive voters of color is increasingly being felt in certain states. They have become decisive in the most populous states, all of which went to Gore except Ohio, Texas, and (maybe?) Florida. In California an optimist might even envision a rebirth of Democratic liberalism a couple of elections down the road, based largely on votes of people of color.

The bad news is that the two-party, winner-take-all, Electoral College system of this country ensures, even requires, that voters of color be marginalized or totally ignored.

The Electoral College negates the votes of almost half of all people of color. For example, 53 percent of all blacks live in the Southern states, where this year, as usual, they voted over 90 percent Democratic. However, white Republicans out-voted them in every Southern state (and every border state except Maryland). As a result, every single Southern Electoral College vote was awarded to Bush. While nationally, whites voted 54-42 for Bush, Southern whites, as usual, gave over 70 percent of their votes to him. They thus completely erased the massive Southern black (and Latino and Native American) vote for Gore in that region.

Since Electoral College votes go entirely to whichever candidate wins the plurality in each state, whether that plurality be by one vote or one million votes, the result was the same as if blacks and other people of color in the South had not voted at all. Similarly negated were the votes of the millions of Native Americans and Latino voters who live in overwhelmingly white Republican states like Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, the Dakotas, Montana -- and Texas. The tyranny of the white majority prevails.

Further, the impact of the mostly black voters of Washington, D.C., unfairly denied statehood, is undermined by its arbitrary allocation of only three electoral votes. And the peoples of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam -- which are colonies ruled by the U.S. and have greater populations than more than a quarter of the U.S. states -- get no Electoral College votes at all.

Slave Power

In his New York Times op-ed, Yale law professor Akhil Amar reveals that the hitherto obscure Electoral College system was consciously set up by the Founding Fathers to be the mechanism by which slaveholders would dominate American politics.

The Constitution provided that slaves be counted as three-fifths of a person (but given no citizenship rights) for purposes of determining how many members each state would be granted in the House of Representatives. This provision vastly increased the representation of the slave states in Congress.

At the demand of James Madison and other Virginia slaveholders, this pro-slavery allocation of Congresspersons also became the basis for allocation of votes in the Electoral College. It is a dirty little secret that the Electoral College was rigged up for the express purpose of translating the disproportionate Congressional power of the slaveholders into undue influence over the election of the presidency. Virginia slaveholders proceeded to hold the presidency for 32 of the Constitution's first 36 years.

Since slavery was abolished, the new justification for the Electoral College is that it allows smaller states to retain some impact on elections. And so it does -- to the benefit of conservative white Republican states. As Harvard law professor Lani Guinier reports, in Wyoming, one Electoral College vote corresponds to 71,000 voters, while in large-population states (where the votes of people of color are more numerous) the ratio is one electoral vote to over 200,000 voters. So much for one person, one vote.

This year the Electoral College will apparently enable the winner of the conservative white states to prevail over the winner of the national popular vote -- a tyranny of the minority.

Two-Party Racism

The two-party system also structurally marginalizes voters of color.

First of all, to win, both parties must take their most loyal voters for granted and focus their message and money to win over the so-called undecided voters who will actually decide which party wins each election. The most loyal Democrats are strong liberals and progressives, the largest bloc of whom are people of color. The most loyal Republicans are conservative whites, especially those in rural areas and small towns. The undecideds are mostly white, affluent suburbanites; and both parties try to position their politics, rhetoric, and policies to woo them. The interests of people of color are ignored or even attacked by both parties as they pander to the "center."

Another consequence is that a disproportionate number of people of color see no reason to vote at all. The U.S. has by far the lowest voter participation rate of any democracy in the world. The two-party system so demobilizes voters that only about 65 percent of the eligible electorate is registered, and only 49 to 50 percent usually vote (far less in non-presidential elections).

Not surprisingly, the color and income of those who actually vote is skewed to higher income, older, and more conservative white people. In the 1996 presidential election, 57 percent of eligible whites voted compared to 50 percent of blacks and 44 percent of Latinos. Seventy-three percent of people with family incomes over $75,000 voted compared to 36 percent of those with incomes below $15,000.

In addition, current electoral law disenfranchises millions of mainly Latino and Asian immigrants because they are not citizens. And, according to Reuters, some 4.2 million Americans, including 1.8 million black men (13 percent of all black men in America), are denied the right to vote because of incarceration or past felony convictions.

Proportional Representation

To remedy these racist, undemocratic electoral structures, Lani Guinier and many others propose an electoral system based on proportional representation. New Zealand, Australia, all of the European countries except Great Britain, and many Third World countries have proportional electoral systems. In such systems, all parties that win a certain minimum of the popular vote (usually five percent) win representation in the Congress (or Parliament) equal to their vote. To win the presidency, a party must either win an outright majority or form a governing coalition with other parties.

Thus, for example, the German Green Party, which gets about seven percent of the vote, is part of the ruling coalition in that country. If we had such a system, a racial and economic justice party could be quite powerful. Instead, in our current system, voting for a third-party candidate like Nader takes votes from Gore and helps Bush. And someone like Jesse Jackson, who won 30 percent of the Democratic popular vote in 1988, is not a viable candidate, and his supporters have little clout in national politics.

If we fail to place fighting electoral racism at the very top of a racial justice agenda, we will continue to be effectively disenfranchised, and white people, especially conservative white Republicans, will enjoy electoral privileges that enable them to shape the policies and institutions of this country at our expense. We must eliminate the role of big money in elections and make voting readily accessible to poor folk.

Until we win a proportional system -- or unless there is some other major political shake-up -- the vast majority of people of color will continue to participate in the Democratic Party. Therefore we must resist the racist, pro-corporate rightwing of the Democratic Party, led by people like Al Gore, and demand that the Democrats more strongly represent the interests of people of color. However, our ability to do this -- or to build anti-racist third parties that include our peoples -- depends upon our ability to form mass, independent racial justice organizations and to build alliances with other progressive forces both inside and outside the electoral realm.

Building electoral alliances -- around issues, referenda, and candidates, both inside and outside the Democratic Party -- is key to the maturation of a racial justice movement that functions on the scale necessary to impact national politics, social policy, or ideological struggle in this country.

Bob Wing is executive editor of ColorLines, a magazine of Race, Culture & Action, and a longtime fighter for racial and economic justice. Vanessa Daniel of the Applied Research Center provided invaluable research assistance.

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