THE ART OF VOTING

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Voting is one of the most important tools that citizens can access in order to help shape the collective civic experience in the United States. At one point in time, voting rights were limited to white male property owners. Others gained voting rights later. Though African Americans have this right, there are a number of tactics that have been created in the attempt to steal or suppress the vote.

Interestingly, there are still a number of African Americans who feel that their votes don’t count and that the system is rigged. It is true that people have limited influence over who becomes a candidate for president of the U.S. because national politics has turned out to be a playground for plutocrats. The wealthier a candidate, the better the opportunity to ascend to high office. So, in a sense, the naysayers who eschew the voting process are onto something. Sort of.

The truth of the matter is that politics can definitely be controlled at the local level, and lack of participation can have painful consequences for beleaguered communities. The key to successfully influencing the political process is to learn how to assess candidates and then vote based on concrete issues. People must also learn to hold elected officials accountable. What happens more often than not, however, is that people latch onto one or two issues that they don’t like connected with a particular candidate. As a result, there is a tendency to vote based on EMOTION and not on rational concerns. People vote against pet peeves. The problem with this is that a candidate who has not satisfied ALL of the concerns of ALL of the people will always fall short with some voters.

Let’s face it; a dose of reality needs to saturate the voting public now, and this especially relates to African American voters due to the trials and tribulations that Black people have traditionally faced. Broken promises tend to be the hallmark of the political landscape for Blacks. In fact, the current national political climate is so saturated with “false news” and disinformation, that voters are mired in a political maze when it comes to selecting viable candidates. Black voters face a catch 22; due to racial politics, many Blacks tend to automatically distrust white candidates. At the same time, there is a tendency to also distrust any Black candidate who has been somewhat successful in the political arena. This is a recipe for disaster, and can result in a stalemate, which almost guarantees that the enemies of the Black community gain a strong foothold because they face a fragmented Black electorate.

What are some of the realities that the community must face in order to effectively utilize the system? We must acknowledge the idea that we will not find any politician who is without baggage – there are no unblemished candidates. Anyone who makes headway in the political arena has had to make concessions. Elected officials are not elected to service just one segment of the population; they must theoretically address the needs of an extremely diverse constituency.

We are in dire times in America wherein there is a crisis in leadership. We are faced with a POTUS who denies climate change, and who shut down the government and declared a national emergency in a ploy to get Americans to support an illogical and racist border wall. We need to be more discerning than ever in this political climate. We must resist the urge to nix viable candidates based on an emotional reaction to one or two questionable actions while ignoring all of the really great things that a candidate has done. Our current predicament is based on just this kind of decision-making. People are embracing false news without making decisions based on rational matters. Knee-jerk emotions are the rule and not the exception.

A lot is at stake during the upcoming election season, both on a local and national level. Once a viable candidate emerges, we must decide to unify and back that individual in order to oppose those who have demonstrated a lack of respect for our community, and we must embrace the art of compromise in order to do this. Finally, we must vote like our lives depend upon it, because at this point, they do! A Luta Continua.

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