Jennifer Carroll’s historic election should send a message to all black voters and black elected officials. The first black person to be elected lieutenant-governor in the Deep South since Reconstruction, she is one of the highest-ranking black Republicans and state-wide elected officials — black or white — in the United States.
In addition to the historical aspects of her election, the Trinidad-born immigrant epitomizes the American Dream: an adopted child who rose to become a decorated naval officer, businesswoman, legislator and now number two in state government. Her accomplishments are something every young black child, especially girls, should strive to emulate.
When in the House leadership, Carroll gladly assisted many members of the Florida Black Caucus. When she ran for lieutenant-governor, not one of them supported her, even though three endorsed Charlie Crist over Kendrick Meek for U.S. Senator. Now that she will be Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s partner in governing the state, they no longer refer to her as the “Black Republican;” she is now “Our Sister.”
Black Republicans understood the historical implications of this election. Unlike the Jewish community and voters who never forget the horrors perpetrated against them, black voters seem to have foggy memories. Such was the case on Nov. 2.
Throughout most of the 20th century, Florida, controlled by Democrats, was a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan. From 1900 to 1930, Florida had the highest per-capita lynching rate of any Deep South state. On Christmas day 59 years ago this month, Harry T. Moore, the founder of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, was murdered when his house was bombed. Although Moore might not have been proud of how blacks have become pawns in the hands of the Democratic Party that historically enslaved and brutalized them, I am sure he would be very pleased with Jennifer Carroll’s election. On Nov. 2, while black Democrats apparently forgot that history, black Republicans rallied to her side.
Blacks remain the only voter group that consistently gives 90 percent of its vote to virtually any Democrat and demands and receives little, if anything, in return. Bill Clinton, once called by many Blacks the “first black president,” tried to convince Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Senate race and not try to become Florida’s “first black U.S. Senator.” Would Clinton have urged a Jewish or Hispanic candidate to drop out in favor of a non-Jew or non-Hispanic?
Probably not. Both are respected and feared voting blocks. Blacks, however, in a turn-the-other-cheek gesture of political masochism, gave Democrats an estimated 92 percent of their votes.
On Sunday, many blacks go to church, praise God, say “Amen” to messages of faith, family, sanctity of life and individual responsibility. On Tuesday, they go to the polls and vote for the political party which, in most cases, represents the polar opposite of what they said “Amen” to on Sunday.
Blacks constitute 26 percent of registered Florida Democrats — over 1.2 million strong — yet they and their elected leaders are rarely consulted on party and campaign strategies. They typically have low turnout, especially in mid-term and local elections. Consequently, they are fast becoming politically irrelevant.
Majority black cities and districts, solidly behind the entire Democratic slate, are now faced with a Republican house, senate, cabinet, governor and lieutenant-governor. They will find it even more difficult to plead their case in Tallahassee.
So, who were the big losers in this election? Black voters. This must be very disturbing to the spirits of Harry T. Moore and many others in Florida who gave their lives for freedom and the right to vote.
Are there lessons to be learned? The Florida Black Caucus could shake up the Democrat party by making its voice a bullhorn. It is time black Democratic leaders demand respect. They need to put their party on notice that the days of taking the black vote for granted are over. The black press and black clergy should support them in that regard.
It is time to rethink the one-party strategy that has left them in the political outhouse. All politics is local, regardless of the color or Party of the occupant of the White House.
Jennifer Carroll was not the only big winner in the election. Other black Republicans also scored. They are often called “Uncle Toms,” “turncoats” and worse by black Democrats, journalists and white liberals for exercising the rights for which Moore and many others died. Black and white Republicans rallied to support Carroll, while most of those who talk about “black empowerment” deserted her.
They also worked hard to elect black Republican women to the Marion County School Board and the Duval County Soil and Water Conservation District. In Broward County, Rick Scott named Levi Williams his county campaign chairman.
Furthermore, just recently, longtime loyal Republican worker Carolyn Kennedy, in her initial bid for party executive office, came within 43 votes of becoming the first black vice chairwoman of the Broward GOP — the second largest in the state.
The message: Black Democrats appear to be in the twilight of political influence in Florida; Black Republicans appear to be in the dawn. For that, they will be respected in the morning.
Clarence V. McKee, an attorney, is president of McKee Communications Inc., a government, political and media relations consulting firm in Coral Springs that coordinated black media outreach for the Scott-Carroll gubernatorial campaign.