Sharpton’s Rallying Cry: ‘We Will Never Have This Opportunity Again’

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Rev. Al Sharpton, saying “We’ll never have this opportunity again,” took to the streets for what appeared to be an emergency cross country tour this week, hoping to rejuvenate the Obama excitement that appeared to have significantly waned after the Democratic National Convention last month.

“What we’ve got to tell people is what’s at stake; that we’re dealing now with the new unemployment. Unemployment is higher than it’s been in four years, we are seeing the education and health care of our people as worse than it ever was…We can not afford to not vote,” Sharpton said in an interview with the NNPA News Service. “On top of that, we’ve never been this close. As African-Americans we’ve never been this close to a qualified African-American who represents the right thing. If he didn’t represent the right thing and he’s wasn’t qualified, there wouldn’t be anything to be excited about. But, we will never have this opportunity again in our lifetime and we can’t flow with being complacent.”

Sharpton, representing his non-partisan National Action Network, took that message on a bus tour this week, campaigning for voter turnout in Black communities of key swing and battleground states; including Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

In North Carolina alone, more than a half million qualified Blacks are not registered to vote, Sharpton says.

“I think we could lose it. When you see 600,000 unregistered in North Carolina and when you look at about the same in Georgia, the amount of those voters registered and turning out could turn those states,” he says.

In America’s Electoral College system, whichever candidate gets the most votes in a state, wins that state and how ever many electoral votes assigned to that state. Therefore, although it is not a one-person-one-vote system, every vote counts toward who will ultimately win the most electoral votes.

“We could, by not coming out, cause the electoral votes to go to McCain and he could become the next president,” says Sharpton. Perhaps the best example of this was the fight over Florida’s 25 electoral votes in election 2000. Al Gore had more popular votes. But, with the Supreme Court’s decision to give Bush the win in Florida, he took the presidency with more electoral votes.

Sharpton, calling his tour the ”Not This Time” voter education and registration campaign, says his effort is also to eliminate voter fraud.

Going into the Democratic Convention, Sen. Obama was running well ahead of Sen. McCain.

Some polls showed him fluctuating between 5-7 percentage points ahead of McCain. However, McCain’s nomination of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a charismatic speaker, has added fire to his once dry campaign. The Obama camp appeared stunned to near-silence for the first few days after her rousing speech at the Republican convention. His numbers have recently declined, sometimes neck-in-neck with McCain; sometimes dropping as much as four percentage points below the campaign.

“I think that the dynamics of the campaign has changed and there needs to be a lot more of a grassroots effort. A lot of the excitement seems to have waned,” says Sharpton. “And I think that there must be some real efforts from the bottom up to energize the base and bring the base out.”

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