DNC Chair Pushing For "Enormous…Huge" Black Voter Turnout Nov. 4
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Now less than two weeks before Oct. 6, the deadline for voter registration in most states, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says he is confident that both African-Americans and many Whites will vote in record numbers for the Democratic ticket because of the high stakes issues and historicity of the election.
"People get what this is about – at least those people in my generation. I was a college graduate when Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. It’s a different time now. We’ve learned a lot over 40 years," Dean says in an interview with the NNPA News Service. "Now, some of the most segregated counties are represented by African- Americans although they are 90 percent White. So, it’s a different time, but it’s our time. Our generation worked very hard for this. So, we’ve got to do everything we can to win."
Dean was referring to a time when the Civil Rights Movement meant fighting for Black people’s right to vote and against segregated public facilities in which Blacks and Whites across the South were legally prohibited from drinking from the same water fountain or using the same public bathroom.
Now that America has its first Black Democratic nominee for president, Dean and others say while Blacks will vote for Obama in order to forge Black progress and because of his understanding of issues, Whites will also vote for him to continue what was started decades ago when Blacks largely marched in the streets demanding change while White lawmakers were forced to establish it.
"Before, we worked together separately. Now we’re working together together," Dean says. "It’s just an extraordinarily exciting time. But, I think the message is resonating all over the country. This is a new generation." Dean likened the Obama v. McCain race to the 1960 campaign between Democratic Sen. John F. Kennedy and Republican Vice President Richard Nixon. Kennedy – like Obama – drew large crowds as many claimed he was too young and too inexperienced, and his Republican opponent Vice President Richard Nixon was viewed as representing the old guard. Kennedy got 49.7 percent of the vote and Nixon got 49.6.
"Change is always difficult. Change is always scary. So, change elections are always close," Dean says. This is why Democrats are hitting the pavement for last minute registrations anywhere they can get them. But, Democrats are vigorously campaigning for votes in what they call battleground states; including New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders, claiming to want the Black vote, appear to be doing little to win it. Neither Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan nor any of his deputies have granted repeatedly requested interviews to the NNPA News Service, which serves more than 200 Black-owned newspapers.
Republican spokesman Sean Conner described the Party as "color blind" during a telephone interview during the Republican National Convention where only 36 out of 2,300 delegates were Black.
Black leaders across the nation are encouraging organizational memberships to encourage others to vote although most Black organizations are non-partisan and cannot suggest Obama.
"There must be an air of seriousness over our work and our conversation," said, president and CEO of the National Urban League. "These titles we hold, these responsibilities we have, we must understand our responsibilities are to lead, to speak up, to speak out, to advocate and to enforce."
Morial said when he looks at the fact that one out of every three African- Americans are still not registered to vote, "I don’t ask what are they going to do? I say we ought to ask what are we going to do?"
Dean says the advantage of the Obama candidacy is that African-Americans are not voting for him just because he could become America’s first Black president. It’s because of the issues, Dean says.
"His major focus is on what every community has in common. His major focus is jobs, health care, fixing the mortgage mess that McCain and Bush has left behind," Dean says. "While it’s inevitable that each community thinks its issues aren’t being talked about enough, I think the most important thing for Barack to do is to talk about the things that affect every single American – including Black Americans. And I think that’s what he’s doing."
Deans predicts a historic turn out in the Black community, but is still pushing to the last minute for people not only to register, but vote.