Vote 2018: America is on the Ballot

 The fight to protect those precious voting rights is still being fought on a daily basis by those who understand the struggle to make a difference through politics and public policy.
The fight to protect those precious voting rights is still being fought on a daily basis by those who understand the struggle to make a difference through politics and public policy.

By Jeffrey L. Boney, Houston Forward Times

The 2018 midterm elections are nearly upon us.

The United States of America, in 2018, is at a major crossroads and there is too much at stake to simply ignore the importance of this critical election.

If ever there was a time to vote, that time is now. And while there will be many candidates whose names will appear on ballots across this country, it is actually the future of the United States of America that is the most important thing on the ballot this November.

These important midterm elections are shaping up to be some of the most important elections in modern times. The results of these midterm elections will not only determine the makeup of Congress, but they will also shape the overall future of this country.

The current president has single-handedly emboldened the worst elements of society to openly express their racist views and bigotry in ways that have not been blatantly seen in America since the days of the Civil Rights struggle.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other legislation that was introduced, helped to deal with issues of racism, police brutality, economic disenfranchisement, discriminatory judicial practices and attacks on voting rights that have existed in this country since inception. However, the unrepentant hearts of racists in this country came to the forefront once again after the election, and subsequent re-election, of the nation’s first Black president in 2008 and 2012 respectively – President Barack Obama.

The current administration has shined a light on the darkness of racism and bigotry that has long been ignored and swept under the rug in this country. The divisive rhetoric and activity that this current administration has boldly encouraged, has now trickled down to many cities and states across this country, which is why voting in local and state elections is so important.

“All politics is local” is a popular political saying that is most often associated with former Democratic House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. When you think about the phrase in itself, it makes sense that the things that impact you the most take place on the local level.

Taxation without representation is a horrible position to be in. The President of the United States, whoever that elected person may be, plays an important role in what affects Black people, but the president can only do so much. All of the key decisions and pieces of legislation that impact Black people on a daily basis are made by individuals who are elected by regular citizens at the local, county and state levels of government. Those who are elected to office by regular citizens, then have the ability to appoint people to other key positions, as well as enact laws that will undoubtedly affect the quality of life of everyone, including those who didn’t vote.

The detrimental outcome of Black people choosing to completely disengage from the political process and choosing not to vote is a costly one. A non-vote is still relevant and just as powerful as if a vote were actually cast. President Donald J. Trump understood that, and expressed his sincere gratitude for a great majority of Black people choosing not to come out and vote in 2016.

After winning his election against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump told a crowd of supporters at a 2016 rally in Grand Rapids:

“The African American community was great to us. They came through, big league. Big league. If they had any doubt, they didn’t vote, and that was almost as good, because a lot of people didn’t show up, because they felt good about me.”

At another rally the following week, Trump once again expressed his appreciation for Blacks choosing to stay home and not vote, saying:

“We did great with the African American community…They didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out. And that was big — so thank you to the African American community.”

According to the Pew Research Center, the Black voter turnout rate in 2016 declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6 percent in 2016, after reaching a record-high 66.6 percent in 2012 when President Obama was re-elected. The number of Black voters who went to the polls in 2016 also declined, falling by approximately 765,000 voters. In contrast, Whites were motivated to come out and vote, primarily because of the polarization of Trump, and had an increase in their voter turnout rate – 65.3 percent in 2016 versus 64.1 percent in 2012.

Over the past few decades, the number of Blacks choosing to stay home and not vote, coupled with the Black vote being constantly targeted by voter suppression tactics, has contributed to the election of many individuals who have not had the best interest of African Americans in mind.

Trump now has the potential of having a second Supreme Court Justice named to the highest court in the land, which could prove disastrous for many African Americans if he is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. The likelihood of this lifetime appointment, along with the other harmful pieces of legislation that have been introduced by this administration, only became a reality when Trump was elected to the office of the presidency by those who chose to vote and by those who chose to stay home and not vote.

This November, Black people must take voting and politics seriously if they are going to see collective changes in their communities, in their social status and in their daily lives.

At the recent Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Summit, Reverend Dr. William Barber challenged the attendees at the annual Phoenix Awards Dinner to step up and vote.

“We are called to be the conscious of this nation,” said Rev. Barber. “Our vision has to be bigger than Trump. We have to come together to change the course of our nation. You better know who you are when you are under assault. We cannot fail to be who we are. We must vote.”

There is no Black community in America that can grow and progress if there is no solid representation in place to make important decisions that impact the quality of life of its residents. Whether it is educating Black children, ensuring their tax dollars are fairly distributed, having access to quality healthcare, having community-based services available to them or receiving equitable treatment in the court of law, Black people must vote to ensure they have quality representation. If Black people don’t vote to ensure they have quality representation, then the potential of having ineffective representatives thrust upon them becomes a potential reality.

Again, Black people need not downplay the significance of these upcoming midterm elections in November. While the races for Congress and the various governorships across the country are extremely important, there are many down ballot races that are even more important and should not be ignored, as they will impact the daily lives of Black people for years to come.

In Harris County, Texas, which is the third most populous county in the U.S., there are 19 Black women running for various judicial seats on the ballot in the upcoming midterm elections.

Whether it is the judge who has the power to sentence your loved one to a lengthy prison sentence or the judge who is responsible for dealing with a lawsuit or the judge who has the power to determine what your child support payments and visitation rights look like through the family court – one or more of these Black women could very well be elected in a position that will impact your life in some shape, form or fashion in the very near future.

The same applies to all of the other important local and state races across the country.

All elections, especially local elections, are too important to overlook and ignore.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which represents over 200 Black-owned media companies across the U.S., has been focused on registering 5 million, new Black voters before the midterm elections and is working collaboratively with other national organizations relative to increasing Black voter turnout.

It is time for Black people to dig in, get in the fight and embrace their precious right to vote, which was paid for with a hefty price. More importantly, the fight to protect those precious voting rights is still being fought on a daily basis by those who understand the struggle to make a difference through politics and public policy. It is not the time to embrace non-voting. It is not the time to make a conscious decision to stay at home and avoid casting a ballot in 2018.

It is time to VOTE, because America is on the Ballot in 2018!

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst for the NNPA Newswire and and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and founder and CEO of the Texas Business Alliance Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.