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If Obama Loses, Would the Party Truly Be Over for Democrats?

BlackAmericaWeb.com, News Analysis, Erin Aubry Kaplan Posted: Oct 30, 2008

Would black folks desert the Democratic party if Obama loses the election? I hardly think so.

First, of all, none of us expected a black man in any party to get this far, and the fact Obamas a Democrat actually reflects well on them (even if some Democrats fought his nomination internally).

Second, and more important, we wouldnt blame the Democrats for a loss -- we would blame a racist society, and that goes deeper than any party affiliation. As universally supportive as theyve been of their candidate, black people long ago accepted the possibility that this election will not go the way theyd like. And what else is new?

People are already preparing for Obama to lose, a black friend of mine, a staunch Democrat, said to me recently. Were just happy that hes got this far and that hes alive. Were ready for the fact he could lose even though all the polls say that hell win.

Call it informed cynicism: In the end, history simply has not been on our side. Besides, were seasoned enough to know that one black elected official will not, or cannot, change our collective fortune. At this point weve had plenty of history-making elected officials and appointees Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell whove meant very little for our progress; they often actually work against it.

We do have more hope that Obama will change that dynamic because hes running for the highest office in the land and will be theoretically calling the shots. But that still could mean that hes merely going to be a creature of the status quo. It would be nice for him to address issues of importance to black people because hes black too, but nobodys taking that for granted.

As Amiri Baraka pointed out to me on NPR last month, Obamas running for president, not the president of the NAACP. Baraka went on to say that the best we can do for ourselves is to elect the man and form a progressive caucus to keep his feet to the fire, hold him to his highest ideals.

The biggest issue is really our own failure to hold any politician accountable to an agenda we should push every year, not just in 2008. Many black folk (including me, I confess) are also holding out hope that Obamas keeping a few of his more radical ideals under wraps until hes safely esconced in the White House.

But back to party affiliation if blacks ditched the Democrats next week (and weve had plenty of reasons to do so long before now), what would the options be? The Republican party? Forget it. In their current iteration, theyre a disaster, and not just for us. Green Party? Maybe. The Green emphasis on youth and social justice is promising; it has Cynthia McKinney, a former Georgia congresswoman and African-American, at the top of its ticket this year.

Unfortunately, blacks as a whole are not terribly progressive and never have been. Were still working on breaking into the mainstream, and that means hewing to mainstream values whether theyre good for us or not. Its possible that something dramatic could happen that would make us switch to the Green Party en masse, as we did with the Democratic party in the 1930s with the birth of the New Deal. But I wouldnt hold my breath .....

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