Romancing the vote, but not the dollar

00_JamesClingmanIt’s so silly for Black people to fight over the Dems and Repubs when it is counterproductive for us to be enslaved by either party. Between the late 1800s and the early 1900s we voted nearly 100 percent Republican.  Now we vote nearly 100 percent Democrat. What has that gotten us besides being ignored and taken for granted? Do we have real political power?

We have been instructed and admonished to be independent and only give our votes to individuals who act in our best interests, but we have failed miserably in response to that advice by doing the exact opposite. It makes no sense to give virtually all of our support to one political party and receive patronizing crumbs in return.

Not the final step
To a large extent, our problem is centered on our romance with the vote itself. We hold our ability to cast a ballot in such high esteem, sadly, as though that alone will solve our problems.

Not so. Voting is simply the first step, not the final step. Without power behind our precious votes, we are a paper tiger, helpless to effect positive change for ourselves in the political arena. The key word in the last sentence is ourselves, because we have certainly helped make things better for other groups.

So, with our political predicament in mind, here are my thoughts:  If we are unwilling to vote as independent critical thinkers, we should stay out of the voting booth. If we are not inclined, on a local and national level, to collectively leverage our voting power, then all we will ever have is the power to vote. If all we are going to do is vote, there is no need to vote at all.

Now before some of you get your jaws tight, just think about all the energy Black folks have put into voting. Think of all the sacrifices we have made, all the mistreatment we have suffered and even this month, as we remember “Bloody Sunday,” how we are still fighting to keep our precious vote. Compare all of that to what we have gained by merely casting our votes and then going back to sleep. We have treated elections like popularity contests and euphoric exercises that only give someone a “job” for as long as they want it, whether they produce or not. We have misused and abused our precious vote by being uninformed on issues and candidates alike, and by being unwilling to do anything except vote for whatever or whomever the party tells us to.  That’s sheer nonsense. If our vote is so sacrosanct, why do we mistreat it?

We want “voting power” but we settle for the “power to vote.”  We fight for the “right to vote” but we fail to “vote right.”  Voting is a means to gain political power, not an end that simply allows one to participate in the act.  If we fail to follow that truism, we may as well not vote.

Jim Clingman is the founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site,



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