today in black history

May 30, 2024

African American Episcopal Zion (A.M.E.Z.)Bishop James W. Hood, a fierce advocate for Blacks' rights, was born in 1831.

The Choice in November is Clear

POSTED: May 28, 2020, 4:00 pm

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I have been involved in politics in some form or fashion since age 13, as an activist, journalist, lobbyist and professional consultant. In my role as a journalist I have covered political campaigns, presidential nominating conventions of both major political parties and presidential candidates’ debates and issues of public policy. In addition, I have been a paid consultant to individual campaigns and partisan legislative organizations. Throughout this time, I made a concerted effort to work on both sides of the aisle and have been retained by both major political parties.

Most importantly, I have only missed voting in one election since registering to vote in 1976. Since that time, I have never failed to vote in a presidential election. During my lifetime I have lived through presidencies that I favored and those that I opposed and quite frankly, resented. While I was never bashful about my disagreements with presidents I did not vote for, even those that I supported were subject to my critique when they fell short of my expectations. After all, I never expect perfection but believe that ‘intent’ is most important when evaluating public policy and the behavior of an elected official.

This brings us to our present situation. I am not confused about who is the better presidential candidate in 2020. Nor will I let distractions deter me from casting a ballot in November. The choice is not between the lesser of two evils as some would have you to believe. Whatever faults Joe Biden may carry from his tenure in the Senate and two-terms as Vice President pale in comparison to the wickedness and immorality of Donald Trump. This election is about saving the institutions fundamental to our democracy or fully ceding this nation to a dictator and rogue ruling class. It is why I will not hesitate in casting my vote for Joe Biden. The choice is that clear to me. Those that want to engage in a philosophical debate, threaten to not vote or engage in incessant whining about candidates they wish were the Democratic nominee, can talk amongst themselves. I am focused on saving what is left of this country and rebuilding what has been lost over the last four years for our children’s future.

The ‘Biden is the wrong candidate’ or ‘there is no difference between the parties’ rhetoric speaks to a purposeful denial of our present crisis. Despite the many well-intentioned ideas of Bernie Sanders, many of which I agree, he is not the savior of the Democratic Party. I think even Senator Sanders would agree with me. And whatever faults reside within the Democratic Party, and there are certainly many, since 1964 the party has been the greatest supporter of policies to level the playing field, expand the administration of justice and voting rights, and provide protections for the American worker and families. That is not conjecture. There is ample evidence in the legislative records of both major political parties to substantiate that claim.

For Blacks to inflate every misstatement of Joe Biden while giving the normalized racism, sexism and bigotry of Donald Trump a ‘shrug of the shoulders’ is like denying water can save you while you are in the middle of a fire. The house is burning and we all risk death when some of us focus on the embers and not the flames or toxic smoke that threatens to asphyxiate us all.

Too many of us are engaged in constant criticism and not a reasoned critique of Biden, and wallow in liberation rhetoric that dismisses the clear and present danger we face. Let me provide two examples. The former vice president takes a lot of heat over the 1994 crime bill, and some of it is deserved. However, Joe Biden alone did not produce that legislation. For those old enough to remember or honest enough to acknowledge, there was a growing and loud chorus in the Black community asking for protection in crime ridden cities. Violence and criminal activity had become epidemic. Some might recall a tragic case in Baltimore in 2002 when an entire family of 7, the Dawsons, was killed when their house was set ablaze by drug dealers. The family was targeted because the mother was outspoken regarding the drug trade being conducted on her block. What was left of Detroit was being burned to the ground every Halloween. Los Angeles was in the midst of gang wars where drive-by shootings were claiming the lives of innocent bystanders, many of them teenagers. The crime bill was a response to that cry for help and it had a lot of Black supporters. I still have the White House press release with the names of all of the Black faith leaders who endorsed the bill, primarily because it was many of their congregants that had been impacted by crime. No one at the time foresaw the mass incarceration that would result from sentencing guidelines resulting from that legislation. Today, it has conveniently been heaped on Biden’s lap without any consideration of what got us to that bill in the first place.

The same can be said for the criticism that Biden has not offered a ‘Black agenda.’ What past president ever did and what should be expected when Blacks comprise just 12.7 percent of the nation’s population? A president who abides by the processes of our federal system cannot simply wave a magic wand and deem policy into law. Though in Trump’s delusionary mind, he believes he possesses that wand. It is why Congress exists. What is missing is the collective work of our Black-led organizations to promulgate a national policy agenda. It should not come from a presidential candidate; it should come from us. Who knows what the priority issues are facing our community better than we do? To expect any presidential candidate to navigate the complexities of race and class and come up with a comprehensive framework for Black empowerment is a folly. Our interest would be better served by bringing forth an agenda, with wide input, and placing it before Joe Biden as our expectation for governance under a Biden administration. It is no different than how the nation’s civil rights leadership proceeded with Lyndon Johnson during the 1964 presidential campaign, and Jack Kennedy before LBJ. What was gained? The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act or ‘Fair Housing Act’ of 1968. We also witnessed the appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court as the first Black Justice and the equally historic appointment of Dr. Robert Weaver as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to Johnson’s presidential Cabinet.

This election is going to test our maturity as a people. We can either engage in trivial fault-finding, revisionist history and pseudo-analyses of partisan politics or go to the polls and make certain Donald Trump is not re-elected. Does he have to show you a gas chamber to convince you who he is? The election of Richard Nixon, the tainted election of George W. Bush, and the infiltration by Trump should be enough to motivate Black voters to head to the polls and cast their vote on November 3 in record numbers for Joe Biden.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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