Over the past months I’ve written about the necessity of Black voters requiring patronage in return for electing politicians to office. This week I’m providing a concept that I think will enable elected officials to demonstrate their commitment to including Black voters in job and business opportunities that the officials influence or control. Hopefully, other ideas will be offered to improve upon this presentation.
We recently announced the upcoming Voter Empowerment Summit scheduled for January 10, 2015 at Martin Street Baptist Church, 1001 E. Martin St. Raleigh, NC 27601. The summit is being convened by NC House Democratic Leader, Larry Hall and the Alliance of North Carolina Black Elected Officials Chairman, Richard Hooker to address the results of our past November General Elections and to plan voter empowerment strategies going forward. We also plan to have an extensive discussion on the topic of patronage for Black voters.
Many of you are quite familiar with “disparity studies” that are legally required before certain public bodies can implement Affirmative Action initiatives. My thought is that there is both legal accountability and political accountability. For purposes of addressing the patronage that Black voters are entitled to in return for electing candidates to office this commentary will address political accountability. It is a well known that many, many political offices come with inherent discretionary patronage powers to award jobs and contracts.
Historically, Affirmative Action laws required proof of discrimination in the way that public bodies and private companies hired workers and awarded certain contracts for goods and services before remedies could be implemented to address historical, institutionalized discrimination. However, elected officials make many decisions with discretionary authority and influence without regard to Affirmative Action, or disparity studies. For many voters to know where many job and economic opportunities exist, they have to be informed of their existence by their elected officials.
To determine whether politically controlled discretionary jobs and economic opportunities are being awarded in a fair and equitable manner informal “disparity studies” must be conducted. Disparity studies will show jobs and opportunities that are awarded based upon political influence many of which are patronage awards. The first step in political accountability is the identification of discretionary opportunities that exist in many public, and quasi-public entities. A simple survey could provide this information.
The second step, is to determine whether the jobs and patronage opportunities are being awarded in a fair and equitable manner. A research and public policy entity should be engaged to carry out the research needs inherent in a documented accountability initiative. Such entity should be financed with membership fees, contracts to perform disparity studies, and contracts for such other services as are necessary for the success of a patronage program. This is very similar to the funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Where Black voters provide support that creates political influence or control, elected officials should volunteer to initiate disparity studies that will enable them and their supporters to be assured that Blacks are equitably considered in job and business opportunities. Voters should evaluate their officials based upon the findings of the disparity studies. Of course, elected officials that don’t account to their constituents should always be held accountable on Election Day!
Over the past weeks, I’ve also discussed three distinct Eras of Black
Reconstruction. The first came immediately after the Civil War and the second started during the Civil Rights Era of the 1950’s. Both of these Eras were characterized by widespread progress being made by Black people. Often the progress made was the result of positive changes in voting rights laws. The biggest criticism of the Second Era has been that jobs and economic opportunities were often out of reach for too many low and no income Black people. (See link #1 below).
Although political patronage is an important and necessary part of our Third Reconstruction it is not the only part. Creating more and better jobs and economic opportunities for Black citizens and communities is essential for a successful reconstruction. The process of developing an aggressive political accountability mechanism will create better informed and engaged voters, and in the end, increase Black voter turnout.
Because Black voters have invested their political power in Black elected officials they look to them for support and direction in developing new initiatives in their struggle to make the political process more accountable to the needs of low and no income voters. The efforts of Black elected officials are essential in addressing our efforts in the “Third Reconstruction.” An important article that provides historical context to this issue is Rightwing Neo-Session or a Third Reconstruction by Bob Wing. (See link #2 below).
As Thorndike defines “politic” as wise in looking out for one’s own interests, we will continue to explore our options going forward, and urge all of our leadership organizations, and individuals to add increasing Black voter participation, and securing political patronage to their meeting agendas.
As more details of the summit are finalized, I will continue to provide updates and will start a Facebook event to help gauge support. The Summit is free and open to all. Lastly, if your organization is interested in being a co-sponsor of the Summit, please send me an email to that effect.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on politics and economics. To support our efforts to marry our politics and economics please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/VoteYourEconomics. “Share” our articles, and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website www.GreaterDiversity.com. Comments can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow our above-referenced recommendations.