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Our vote does count

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

If you look at any election in the past 50 years, you will notice one thing-- that the Black vote counts. But when you look at the way politicians look at the Black vote, you may see a very different picture.

The Black community has power, and when we get passionate about an issue, we come out in full force. But when we are neglected, we may very well sit an election out.

The Black vote often has been taken for granted, especially by the Democratic Party. Many that sit at the tables of power believe that Black folks have to vote for the Democrat because we have no other choice. But the fact is, we do. We can sit it out, or better yet, run our own candidates. We do have choices, and the Democrats and Republicans better start to understand that leaving us out of the conversation is a great recipe for a party's demise.

We will not be overlooked or marginalized. We will not be relegated to the sidelines. We will be active participants in our democracy--and that means that you either have us at the table or the other side of the isle, your choice.

If you look at the Tuesday night primary in Arkansas, who was Blanche Lincoln standing with on stage? She was standing with her supporters, a striking number whom were Black. She stood there proudly because all the nay-sayers who said that she could not compete in a primary with labor pouring $10 million into her opponent's coffers. But with the help of people of color, she was able to "come from behind" and win a primary most said was impossible. It was the Black vote that helped her push through.

But white commentators were loath to give those vital Black voters credit. Instead, they gave the credit for her victory to Bill Clinton, who had campaigned for Lincoln in the final days of the contest. And while it is true that the former president still holds sway in his former state, no one political can pull it out for a candidate--Lincoln needed a strong showing of African-American voters to really stand a chance.

This is not the the first time that a southern politician has won on the backs of Black voters. Mary Landrieu, senator from neighboring Louisiana, won her 2001 senatorial election because she received overwhelming Black support from the residents of New Orleans. Landrieu was honest enough to admit at the time that she owed her victory to Black support.

And such victories for candidates is not simply a Southern phenomenon. In the 2001 mayoral election in New York City, it was the Black voters who came together behind businessman Michael Bloomberg against Mark Green, the Democratic candidate, to see that Bloomberg won. It was not necessarily because our community loved Bloomberg, but they believed that there would be a seat at the table for them, while they knew Green would leave the Black community in the dust.

The Black vote made Bloomberg's mayoralty a possibility.