Representative Democracy Has Failed Black People in America

Black voters in particular are interested in optimal physical safety

Alton Drew | Guest Contributor | @altondrew

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Representation means nothing if the spoils of society are not being delivered for each vote provided by citizens.  Black voters in particular are interested in optimal physical safety, a need stemming rom violence perpetrated on them during the Jim Crow era. Optimal access to capital, without which economic security is near impossible or very difficult. And the right to exist as a unique and thriving culture.

What I see being exchanged for each vote delivered by Black citizens is the acquisition of a title by one or two elected representatives. Representative democracy has created political capitalism, where owners of the political factors of political output are not creating political outcomes that address protection for Black society, optimal Black economic security, or optimal protection from violence.  Government, rather, is a feeding trough for Black political representatives, with the number of voters they can persuade to vote for their party serving as the tickets for admission to the political feeding spots.

Government as a club you swing, not a club you join …

Blacks should not look at government as a club to send their smoothest talking salesman to.  Rather, Blacks should look at government as a club that can be swung in order to generate capital access, physical security, and economic empowerment.  The outcomes should be a result of pressure politics.  This means that Black political leadership should not be found embedded in the political machinery.  Black political leadership should be manipulating the political machinery from the outside.

Blacks in America need only go back to 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, vacated the ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, holding that segregated educational facilities were unconstitutional.  This major landmark civil rights action did not flow from the efforts of Black members of Congress.  There were hardly any.  This ruling was the result of Blacks taking alternative action in the courts, an approach that was focused and targeted on, in my opinion, the most important branch of government. It is here where the social and public policy goals of law are interpreted and in some cases, where current social policy is brought to light and used to overturn precedent.

Creative chaos versus status quo ….

When Black representatives allow themselves to be embedded in the current electoral structure, their priorities shift to satisfying congressional leadership and mining votes for their national parties.  These activities serve the interests of a majority White congressional leadership versus the Black constituents Black representatives are supposed to be advocating for. 

Take for example Rep. Al Green’s (D-TX) attempt to bring forward articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.  The articles were blocked by the House with Mr. Green, Democrat of Texas, not being able to bring the majority of his own party on board with the proposal.

Mr. Green’s actions were in keeping with the status quo of congressional politics.  But did his actions result in any benefits for Black constituents?  Did they lead to an increase in physical or economic security?  Did they lead to increased influence of Blacks in the national Democratic Party?

What is likely is that Mr. Green lost political capital and as a political capitalist he must realize that a decreased ability to bring voters with him to the trough means lessened prestige in the Congress.  The other issue he has to face is how his constituents will deal with the knowledge that their congressman has wasted scarce political capital on a go-nowhere initiative all because being embedded in the machinery creates the obligation of delivering outcomes that don’t serve them.

Conclusion: Representative democracy is failing Black people

Representative democracy has failed Black people in America.  The representatives from the Black community in Washington - convening this week at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference or “CBC Week” - have been converted into agents for their respective party’s leadership, securing the votes needed so that they can pull up a chair at the trough.  Just like social media has turned subscribers to social networks into resource and product for advertisers, the electoral system has turned Black voters into lumps of coal with Black Members of Congress acting as the conveyor belt carrying the coal to the primaries and the national elections.

What then is the alternative approach?