What is commonplace yet so strange about America, a bastion of freedom and democracy – and teacher of such to the world – is its people’s penchant to not be democratic.
While they enjoy freedom of the individual, they tend to eschew freedom of various groups, classes and ethnicities.
Democracy is a major American export, especially the assurance of “one man, one vote” and “free elections.” Yet the historic American civil rights movement glaringly showed the world our contradiction in terms.
And during eight years of “compassionate conservatism” served up by the Bush administration, the U. S. has been attacked, is still engaged in two wars, is loathed more than ever, and has created a worldwide economic meltdown.
Along came Barack Obama and his “audacity of hope,” and a rejuvenated American electorate catapulted him to the White House as the first African-American president.
Black voter registration soared, and in most places Obama got about 90 percent of the black vote. Lest we forget, the presidential election of 2008 is a stark reminder of how precious the very idea of true democracy is for us and for the world.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that President Obama gets out of the White House quite often and visits various parts of the country to rally people around his agenda. Obama understands that all politics is local, and he has consistently preached that we must organize from the bottom up, not the top down.
Anything and everything that emanates from the White House and Congress has to be implemented at the state, county, municipal, district and/or neighborhood levels – and in that order!
So when edicts, funds and proposed legislation come down from Washington and the people are not organized from the bottom up, accountability becomes the slippery slope to oligarchy, which is rule by a powerful few, including lobbyists, financiers, developers, politicians and criminals.
To our detriment, we Americans have developed a waning interest in local elections, which is confirmed by very low voter turnout. This apathy stems from at least two sources: There is very little camouflage to hide the incessant trickery and lies of many local officials; and bureaucratic red tape is too cumbersome and time consuming for those who would navigate the system.
For most black voters in Fort Lauderdale’s District 3 elections, there tends to always be a third and perhaps most important issue: The electorate knows of and does not think much of the candidates running. Some researchers may construe this consistent non-vote as mere apathy, but could the real statement of the non-vote mean a refusal to choose a lesser of evils?
In the Feb.10 election, only 1,820 people voted in District 3, out of 27,135 registered voters. For the March 10 runoff, with 18 of 21 precincts reporting at press time, 1,892 votes had been counted. Bobby Dubose, an insurance adjuster, won the District 3 city commission seat with 1,226 votes.
The last election in which former City Commissioner Carlton Moore ran and won was in 2003, and only 2,234 people bothered to vote. (In 2006, term-limited Moore was re-elected without opposition.)
Also, according to Broward County Supervisor of Elections statistics, since the March 1994 election in which only 953 people voted out of 12,314 registered voters (Moore won), there has been a consistent pattern.
Obviously, Fort Lauderdale’s District 3, with its majority black voters, has never been organized. And you can place a safe wager that there are many such majority black local districts across the length and breadth of America. Power or the lack thereof is always measured, and unfortunately for the residents of areas like District 3, they are rendered politically inert – powerless.
District 3 has got to get on the court, on the field of play. Remember Frederick Douglass’ admonition: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”
Is there anybody out there who understands and is willing and able to spend the better part of the next three years going door to door, block by block, to homeowners and other civic meetings, churches, schools, “under the trees,” and to all the businesses, and with the right messages? And can that person also listen, and learn, and above all else be truthful?
Where are you? Step forward, for your time has come!