Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Republicans Suppress Black Vote; Democrats Scatter It

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The real question is: Whose plantation?”

Democrats in Virginia are up in arms, because the Republicans took advantage of a Black state lawmaker’s absence to push through a redistricting bill that increases the GOP’s chances to take decisive control of the state senate. The Black state senator felt it was more important to attend President Obama’s inaugural. The Republican redistricting plan would increase the number of majority Black districts to six, from the current five. But, in pulling enough African Americans together to make a new Black district, the plan moved Blacks out of districts represented by white Democrats, weakening the party’s chances of taking the senate.

The Democratic state caucus chairman was livid. “This was nothing more than what I call plantation politics,” he declared. The real question is: Whose plantation? Certainly, Virginia Republicans intended to weaken the Democratic Party as a whole by moving African American voters out of some white Democrats’ districts. The Democrats like to scatter Black voters around, so they can provide the winning margin in a close contest. They want to keep Blacks as reliable voters on their plantation. Republicans would prefer to keep Blacks from voting, at all, but if they must vote, the GOP wants as few of them as possible in contestable districts. So, let’s be clear: both parties are playing plantation politics with Black voters, for their own purposes. In this case, it is the Republican plan that would result in an additional Black state senate seat.

The political life of the community is stilted in a process in which they must choose between the lesser evils among white politicians.”

The Democrats claim that concentrating the Black vote dilutes Black voting strength, even if more African Americans are elected to office. But that’s only true if one accepts that white Democrats who win office with Black help actually represent Black people. In reality, Black concerns rarely see the light of day in electoral contests in which Blacks are not majorities or near majorities. The political life of the community is stilted in a process in which they must choose between the lesser evils among white politicians. In such elections, Blacks never get to argue among themselves about the kind of future they want to build for their own communities. They are just fodder for white Democrats.

Truth be told, conservative Black politicians have mastered the art of marginalizing Black voters, even in majority Black districts. In 2002, former Black Republican Denise Majette defeated Cynthia McKinney for Congress, in Georgia, in a Black majority district, while winning only 15 percent of the African American vote. That same year, former Black New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a lifelong Republican, won office in a Black city as the white people’s candidate. Philadelphia’s horrible Black law and order mayor Anthony Nutter won in 2007 because of his “unprecedented appeal” to whites. And City Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, won half the Black vote but still lost by a landslide in a majority Black congressional district to Hakeem Jeffries, a darling of Wall Street and school privatizers.

Need I mention the name, Barack Obama?

No, what Black America needs are Black political conversations, preferably in Black majority circumstances. To hell with the Republican and Democratic plantations.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130130_gf_BlackDistricts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:32am EDT