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Opportunities to Effect Change

Opportunities to Effect Change

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

In the end, this is a blog about opportunities, as well as strategies for engaging “communities that share the same interests” and ways to encourage them to become a part of the solution through donations, volunteering, social, academic, and civic engagement. Although this blog pulls from my experiences in the organizations listed below, in no way does that render our model ineffective for other non-profits, charitable institutions, businesses, government agencies, or for-profit institutions. Truthfully, I’ve witnessed these strategies effectively applied in just about every organization and effort conceivable. I learned these strategies while working for the institutions listed below and each provided me a unique set of issues, demographics, geographies, and resources to pull from.

Within these organizations we will explore the nuances of “non-ethnic” vs “authentic” engagement tactics and learn if they work or not. We believe the problem a current collaborative faces is that they’re one-dimensional in their approach. Their work is based on an assumption that “non-ethnic” civic behavior is the standard. Therefore, the behavior of people of color is viewed as “deviant” versus being understood as behavior rooted in and reflective of a different set of values, beliefs, experiences and world view.

One problem with this approach is that we fail to recognize opportunities to understand the complex nature of political behavior by people of color. This makes it difficult to learn from experiences that vary from the so-called standard and that makes it almost impossible to put into practice policies that will empower the progressive community to move forward.  Instead, we waste time on forcing a square block into a round hole. We direct resources to develop programs, services, methods and frameworks that ultimately do not deliver the desired outcome and do not develop leaders of color who speak the language of the desired voter. Our approach is different and the blog that I have chosen to write will be rooted in our experiences and presented within that context.

Before yours truly arrived in this town, I had no idea that I would become a Sr. Advisor, Analyst or a Strategist. In fact, I came to Washington more than 20 years ago as an intern in the office of Presidential Personnel. Functioning as an intern at the White House not only expanded my capabilities but also set in motion a series of experiences that laid the foundation for what would become the opportunity of a lifetime. As a result of that opportunity I became a Sr. Advisor for PowerPAC+ where I was groomed to be a political tactician. While there, we perfected our work to transform the nescient “Rising American Electorate” to what is now a driver of American politics. This blog gives an account of that conversion and in what way our approach shaped it.

Our methodology was cultivated by way of my personal journey, from the White House, People For the American Way, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to Common Cause, the NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Maryland Leads and PowerPac+. The tactics learned in these organizations consequently develop into a point of reference for most of our handiwork through the decade. Throughout my time in Washington, I’ve toiled and tinkered with many strategies, methods, and systems to create a structure to hang our ideas on while we refine and develop innovative ways to edify the models. Within PowerPAC+, there were five people in particular who were significant in advancing these ideas. At the NAACP there were dozens of leaders, members, activists, unit leaders, state presidents, and board members — including individuals whose anecdotes are recounted later in this blog. Note that each and every one played an important part, especially the board of directors for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and people I regard as friends, they were all ground-breaking innovators who molded these theories and efforts. It is our aspiration that over the course of the next several months you will find something in our learning to help you connect with the information and resources you need to support and further your mission.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

A Student of Color Can Be Mayor Someday #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

The right candidate tapped into this powerful coalition

A look back at how we got here…

 Almost a decade ago, America experienced a tragedy that tested the spirit of the entire nation, especially one of our most historic cities–Boston. That city was indeed resilient, so was no doubt that this senseless act of violence would only catalyze their renaissance. As our thoughts and prayers went out to the families affected by that terrible event, they were already showing signs of bouncing back.

 As Boston grappled with the economic, cultural, and judicial effects of that event, the political dynamics surrounding the city’s future were beginning to solidify. Remember that their population increased significantly in the ten years prior. Yes, Boston grew 4.8% to 617,594, and it had over 85,000 “key” Voters of Color, but that only explains part of the story.

 To understand Boston, you have to understand its historical role in shaping American politics. Their reputation for producing national leaders is a civic marvel and the stuff of political legends. Progressive Whites and People of Color (POC) are central to this history and have many stories to share about their “Pre-Civil War” Beacon Hill community. They will tell you with pride about the African Meeting House – the oldest surviving African American church tower in the nation – where notables such as Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth waged many early civil rights battles alongside progressive Whites.

 Present-day, they will tell you how surreal it feels to watch President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Governor Patrick, and their current Mayor serve as civic leaders. Not to mention how amazing it must be to see their beloved city embrace people of color as American leaders. Especially Bostonians living in neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester- two majority-minority communities – are excited about the changing face of politics. It’s truly a new day when multiple POC candidates ran for Mayor and city council and won.

 Of course, it’s tricky to measure the political effect this set of events will have on the consciousness of the national electorate–however, there are signs. While “flashpoint” political impressions are hard to quantify, the fundamentals of Boston began to solidify years ago:

  • There were over 600,000 people living in Boston – 17% Latino, 24% African American, and 9% Asian.
  • At least four city council members in the race for Mayor in 2013 – a crowded field leaving plenty of open council seats.
  • The 2009 Mayoral race recorded about 101,000 votes – a small universe of voters.
  • The 2011 at-large city council race recorded a little more than 170,000 votes.

There were a lot of candidates running for Mayor in 2013, and that split the independent vote share at least four ways. However, it was Voters of Color who were affected the most. That race created a path to elect a Person of Color as Mayor with the right candidate, message, and brilliant voter registration and turnout program.

 Please make no mistake, it took a block by block community organizing effort, but Bostonians have a history of voting for the candidate representing their interests. They’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the opportunity to vote for a candidate that dares to stand up for all Americans. Just as in Patrick’s governor’s race, the right candidate tapped into this powerful coalition of progressive Whites and Voters of Color.

 The marathon tragedy brought together this patriotic city like never before, and the positive energy that Bostonians projected became the catalyst for positive change in their politics.

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Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Students of Color Represent More Than A Turning of the Tide #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

A look back at how we got here…

 Over the years, there have been many uplifting moments for progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color. The past few elections have been filled with energetic political events, parades, and plenty of moments that did more than entertain; they inspired. Many things are different now, but some things we can count on. 

 The progressive network now has a unique opportunity to expand, deepen, and strengthen its proven game-changing system, which records students of color. As demonstrated in 2020, these young voters have the power to elect candidates — including African Americans — to the mayor’s office, state capitals, U.S. Congress, and the White House. On the horizon is the critical 2022 midterm elections, where candidates of color are poised to become U.S. Senators if this voter power is tapped.

 Senator Cory Booker represents a perfect example of what can happen in 2022. His state of New Jersey — once known as the “pathway of the revolution,” is still a symbol of patriotism. Booker’s use of Twitter to rescue a freezing dog was an example of this new pathway. It demonstrated how new media, politics, and old-fashioned values could create a new brand of social patriotism.

 New Jersey has experienced significant demographic changes, which have impacted its political environment. The state has the seventh-largest Latino population in the United States. Nearly 25% of N.J.’s registered voters are VOC, with the majority of them Democrats. Among voters who are not registered, about 33% are people of color. That means close to 32% of New Jersey’s low propensity voters are VOC.

 How does the fact that voters of color constitute a significant vote share affect New Jersey politics? One example is Senator Booker doing well against other possible candidates for his 2014 U.S. Senate race. As a result, new Jersey Democrats overwhelmingly supported Mr. Booker over Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. As a result, new Jersey voters wanted to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate by a margin of two to one.

 What’s drove his numbers? Booker’s advantages were across geography, populations, and issues. Also, his social media savvy helped to keep his brand strong and get his message out. As mentioned above, after seeing a tweet about a freezing dog, Booker took immediate action to rescue the man’s best friend. That kind of social patriotism resonates strongly with voters.

 By contrast, Pallone, Sweeney, and Andrews were not very well-known among the state’s registered voters, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented N.J. in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.

 Understanding the nature of student of color civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. Authenticity may have been a second-tier concern in the past, but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics. Appealing to pockets of voters was once relegated to the campaign’s “base vote” operation. Now it has become the soul of tactical electoral strategy. Campaigns are beginning to understand that the most effective way to expand the electorate and mobilize communities of color is with conduits that intimately understand those communities.

 There are a few ways to ensure that voters of color achieve their 31% vote share from past elections. The common denominator is the candidate. Every political leader must engage communities of color with authenticity and social patriotism. For some, embracing the new realities of politics will require them to change. Over time they will find it easier to step outside of their comfort zones and themselves. Then their actions will make a difference for others and themselves because it is the responsible thing to do. #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

Will We Help Students of Color Take Advantage of Their New Influence In Congress? #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

A look back at how we got here….

There are certainly plenty of reasons for America to celebrate the beginning of the winter season:

  1. This is the time we recognize Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday.
  2. Winter represents a time in American history when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
  3. This is the season we witnessed the inauguration of the nation’s first African American President.

That inauguration reminded us that to realize our dreams; we have to participate! A year ago, voters of color (VOC) joined other Americans to decide how the government would address the most pressing issues of our times. As the result of dramatic demographic changes, voters of color made the difference in many areas around the country—electing candidates to office who now have the political support to embrace progressive policies. These voters have become the leverage elected officials need to keep campaign promises and support a plan that will have a far-reaching impact on this nation.

In short, the next few years are about more than just a mandate. It is about who voted and the role they are going to play in politics. Much like the Tea Party in 2010, the new coalition of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, women, youth, and unions are poised to change the way America invests in the economy. Also, how we extract and repurpose revenue ensures that the government continues expanding democracy to everyone living in America.

Like the winter of 2012, when Congress had over 18 new members of color joining other progressive Congress members to shape our legislative process. They came from states with significant VOC populations like California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas.

So how did that affect Congress? Most of the 18 new members were from districts where Democrats received outsized support from progressive whites and VOC in key precincts. This support from voters helped Congress members offset most of the political deficits they could’ve faced while compromising and deal-making. This made it difficult for the other side to sustain an obstructionist strategy without publically appearing to be “sore losers.”

Moreover, the President had the bully pulpit. Like in the 2012 campaign, the new coalition of progressive voters made it possible to expand the political map at critical points in the legislative cycle. For example, President Obama’s support in California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico built a legislative firewall during policy negotiations. Simply put, a party will not survive in this new political landscape if it loses favorability from VOC by a 3 to 1 margin.

In the end, we have to remind ourselves that all politics are local. Any party that successfully reached unique pockets of voters during the 2022 campaign will have an advantage in 2023. They can easily overwhelm the other side by amplifying this new coalition’s influence. All it would take is a combination of traditional civic engagement tactics with 21st-century data-driven technology. This strategy of micro-targeting voters by specific issues was used in Ohio in 2012 and proved to be impactful — it delivered a decisive victory for the progressive coalition. For example, the VOC vote share increased to 19% of the 2012 electorate from 16% in 2008.

It’s time to get ready for the next generation, the new Congress, the new coalition of progressive voters, and another historic moment. This winter America honors Martin Luther King, Jr. as the world remembers the inauguration of President Obama. It was also a defining moment for people of color. For the first time since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, their votes had a profound influence on the political landscape of America. We now have an opportunity to govern with a more forward set of strategies. This makes it easier for students of color to support the policies we believe in. #2R1WM

Little Help Goes A Long Way, Investing In Students of Color Is A Sure Bet #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

A look back at how we got here….

The question leading up to the 2012 presidential election was whether or not the voter turnout from President Obama’s coalition of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, women, youth, and unions would be at the same level as in 2008. The answer is “YES!”

Judging from the preliminary numbers, it is clear that there are several vital states and districts in which progressive whites and Voters of Color (VOC) helped to decide election results. During this election cycle, we witnessed the effect of expanding the electorate. Imagine what could happen in 2013, 2014, and 2016 if we continue to push every eligible voter to register and turnout? We could see significant changes in Congress as well as state legislatures.

No longer should we portray progressive whites and VOC as incidental to the broader sphere of American politics. Evidence-based demographic data validated their influences on the election results, demonstrating that consistently high VOC turnout levels produce reliable results. It’s also unmistakable that these turnout levels are connected to a well-funded systematic political structure powered by evidence-based data.

These voters lit the torch that led the Democrats to victories in Congress, Senate, and the White House. This isn’t just luck. With adequate resources, organizations began to connect the dots in late 2010. They pushed vintage campaign models for civic engagement into the 21st Century by building powerful political machines that utilized state-of-the-art technology.

It is time for both parties to recognize that the future is here. The old strategy of “securing the independent voters in the last two weeks” did not pan out for many candidates this election. Instead, it seems that the process of expanding the electorate to include more progressive whites and VOC proved to be a much more durable foundation for building a coalition rather than relying on swing voters. As a result, President Obama dropped independents in most states like Ohio, Nevada, and New Mexico but won each state with respect for 50%, 52%, and 53% of the vote. Even when his opponent began to gain momentum after the first debate, the President never trailed in these critical states.

We believe that the pending certified results will show that voters of color made up 25% of the electorate nationally and at least 19% in 27 states– a dramatic increase from 2008. In addition, for the first time, Latinos were 10% of all voters and supported the President by 71%; African Americans were 13% of all voters, and 93% voted for the incumbent, and Asians were 3% of all voters and well over 72% backed the Democrats.

On the ground, the political environment was similar to 2006 when wedge issues became a way to contrast the candidates. Just like in 2006, this strategy seems to have backfired on the GOP. Comparable to the 2006 election, the Democrats gained a foothold in the Senate by winning 80% of the competitive Senate races. They defeated moderate Senate Republicans in Hawaii, New Mexico, and Virginia. They successfully defended gains from 2006 in Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In addition, Democrats won a majority of all votes cast in House races, gained eight seats in the House, gained 170 more state legislative seats nationwide, and took over eight state legislative chambers, including complete control of Colorado.

At the state level, progressive whites and VOC provided the momentum to help Democrats win seven of eight tossup House races in California and all three tossups in Arizona. Also, they gave the Democrats critical wins in CA-36, FL-9, FL-26, and TX-23.

Nevada provides an excellent example of Latinos, African Americans, and Asians’ impact due to investing in their increased civic participation. The state already gained a congressional seat and an Electoral College vote due to the 2010 U.S. census, which pointed to 28% of the citizen voting-age population being VOC. Voters of color represented 26% of the electorate in 2008, increased to 29% in 2010, and jumped to 33% in 2012. In addition, census data shows that places like North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 residents, of which over 46,000 were critical VOC.

There is no doubt that the fundamentals of elections have changed. The beneficiaries of the civil rights movement have finally gained a foothold on political equality, uniting their collective guiding beliefs. The idea that “you have to be a friend to get a friend” will continue to reveal opportunities to work together towards creating an inclusive social, cultural, and economic apparatus. The fact is, if we invest political resources in this coalition, America will experience a positive return. That’s popping the clutch.

Students of color are the answer #MoreThanAvote #2R1WM #MakeElectionDayAHoliday

“Most fear stems from sin; to limit one’s sins, one must assuredly limit one’s fear, thereby bringing more peace to one’s spirit.” – Marvin Gaye.

I believe young voters of color could be the sweet spot in civic engagement next year. Last week I had the privilege of connecting with a young NAACP organizer. We discussed strategies to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. He asked if we’ll ever see the kinds of organizing training that was common pre-pandemic. “You know the mass teaching events that attracted tons of media and thousands of attendees? With an audience that included members of Congress, mayors, and local councilpersons?” 

While in those trainings, a person could catch up with old friends, distant colleagues and meet up with mentors. We would talk about the movement and discuss ways to address civic empowerment issues like redistricting and receive powerful advice. “When life presents more challenges than you can handle, delegate to God. He not only has the answer, He is the answer.”

Young activists have and always will rely on mentorship. As voters, they also benefit from a different kind of mentorship — knowing family members working over fifty-five hours a week and learning about the issues they deal with. Maybe that’s why they get so disappointed with the current redistricting process. While politicians choose who will vote for them, young people realize that they and their hard-working family members are being left out of the process.

What the long-term effects of leaving young people out of the process? Will this widen the gap with young Voters of Color (VOC) on Election Day? Will it solidify positive movement or become a hurdle for young voters of color next year?

Looking at studies from key districts and the last round of redistricting, we are on track to have a similar electorate as the previous decade, where the youth could make up 18% of the vote. As witnessed last year, an energized young VOC electorate can be the difference in multiple races. This is key for understanding the next decade of voting results.

For example, while voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for both Ohio and New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped for New Jersey to 9% in 2009. The same is true for young voters in Virginia; they were 21% of the electorate in 2008 and only 10% in 2009. Why? A substantial number of young VOCs decided to stay home.

What is the possible impact on future elections? If a politician leads their challenger among 18-29-year-old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, if 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting, the political landscape becomes favorable for NAACP supporters. If the base of support from young voters on “major issues” like immigration reform is at least 45% – 25%, then they will see substantial support from young voters of color. 

These numbers will be even more critical in places like New Jersey, where VOC is 31% of New Jersey’s citizen voting-age population. They comprised 28% avg. of the electorate in recent elections. By comparison, in 2010, Hudson county’s population grew by 4% to 634,266, and Jersey City’s population increased by 3% to 247,597. This is a majority Latino, African American, and Asian American city and has well over 95,000 essential VOC.

Looking deeper, you can see how engaging young people during redistricting can positively impact the future of civic engagement. For many, voting provides a sense of independence, responsibility, and purpose. In addition, if politicians are lucky enough to gain their support, they benefit from their vote and their ideas.

It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person votes for the first time. This is one of the first meaningful investments they will make for their future. The funny thing is that it will be a massive investment in America’s future as well. 

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Students of color can attract into their life all their wants and needs #MoreThanAvote #2R1WM #MakeElectionDayAHoliday

“Who are they to judge us, simply because our hair is long?” – Marvin Gaye.

As the saying goes, so goes our youth, so goes the nation. So if we help them, we help ourselves. All it will take is empowering them to advocate for themselves and self-management tools. The truth is that they can attract into their lives all their wants and needs by following the Five D’s: Decide what they want, Determine to make it happen, Diligently Do everything in their power to achieve the goal, and Detach themselves from the result and repeat.

What they can’t control is redistricting, and just like the 2010 cycle, it’s essential to get this right. What were the dynamics at play in places like New Jersey back then? Political experts noticed a philosophical and political trend that may give us an idea of what to do now. It seems that voters in New Jersey were becoming fundamentally different from voters in places like Ohio. It’s not incidental that voters in both states embraced policies supporting working-class men and women and rejected policies that centered around the “virtues of selfishness.” Adding to the mix, there were sizable shifts in New Jersey’s population that created a significant demographic trend.

Being selfish doesn’t just prove a lack of empathy; it demonstrates a lack of common sense leaving the rest of us to do everything in our power to achieve justice.

We saw the impact of voters of color (VOC) when we looked at Middlesex County, where the progressive politicians were defeated for the first time in decades, 47% to 45%. Note that the population in that county, which includes New Brunswick, had grown 8% and was 10% African American, 18% Latino, and 21% Asian Pacific Islander.

This dynamic played a significant role in New Jersey, where VOC were 25% of the electorate in 2009 and 30% in 2010. Census data showed cities like New Brunswick grew 2.3% to 55,181 and had well over 14,000 key VOCs on the voter rolls. Information like that impacted the entire redistricting process for the state.

Looking forward to future redistricting, the fundamentals are beginning to take shape. Though no one can predict what will happen, one thing is true — the American electorate has already started to demonstrate the impact of their changing demographics. Therefore, any politician with an effective strategy to embrace students of color will find themselves well-positioned to impact the political world.

There is no doubt that young Latino and African American voters will impact future elections. The truth is, they have always been significant threads in the political fabric of this nation and continue to become more valuable every decade. Therefore, the sooner students of color figure out their wants and needs, the better. That’s probably the best part of our democracy; their collective vote represents our guiding and future beliefs. If everyone casts a ballot, it doesn’t matter where they come from, their zip code, or how they got here. They are all worthy of respect and deserve the right to cast and have their ballots counted. Likewise, putting self-interest before compassion is not an American value; it’s selfish. Being selfish doesn’t just prove a lack of empathy; it demonstrates a lack of common sense leaving the rest of us to do everything in our power to achieve justice.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Don’t Settle For Less, Students of Color Have Earned An Upgrade #MoreThanAvote #2R1WM #B4uVote #EveryStateVoteNow

“Just as love is a verb, so is faith.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs 

So what’s happening on the ground? Democracy reflects the people’s will, so we must make it easier to vote. After that, we must make sure everyone’s vote is counted. Georgia is in the midst of a concentrated and multilevel civic engagement effort to train, equip, and energize students of color to be future voters. If we are ready for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis, we must embrace students of color. The truth is that candidates that support voting rights (VRA2) could capitalize on these new cultural voting trends and boost voter turnout in “at-risk” communities. 

The use of quantified impression-based targeting, demographic data, and technological enhancements is value-added to traditional civic engagement tools. Still, it’s no substitute for voting rights, education, and economic justice. Supporting voting rights, education, and stimulus legislation make it possible to narrow the gap between the number of eligible voters and the number of actual voters by expanding the electorate. Now students of color may provide enough momentum to energize voters for this and future election cycles. After this, it won’t be long until leaders that support voting rights, education, and economic justice recapture, maintain, and extend their legislative margins in Georgia and other battleground states.

Students of color have the potential to ignite Georgia’s electorate. While fostering collaborations in communities that share the same interests, they generate enthusiasm in the electorate. The “sweet spot” is to engage students that are active offline and encourage them to be more active on-line and “vice versa.” Then, involve these supporters in a push to get their on-line networks to vote and be more involved in long-term civic engagement work like holding elected leaders accountable after the election.

They deserve the best life has to offer and won’t settle for less.

 The impact of students of color on the future of U.S. civic engagement will be huge for years to come. A national study shows VRA2 candidates leading their challengers among 18-29-year-old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting this year. Young voters trust one candidate more than the other to deal with “major issues” like immigration reform 45% – 25%. Among young women, the anti-voting rights candidate loses on issues of concern 53% – 20%.

These numbers are going to be even more critical in U.S. Senate races. In places where VRA2 politicians currently outnumber the others by 10 points, 59% of voters under 30 say that they will vote for VRA2 candidates. Note that in many states, VOC are over 31% of the citizen voting-age population, and they comprised over 28% of the electorate. Places like Georgia are now at the center of the political universe. 

  • As witnessed at the state level in 2012, this rising electorate helped give President Obama 46% (1,773,827) of Georgia’s vote – only a point off his 2008 performance. 
  • More importantly, the VOC vote share grew from 32% in 2008 to 37% for the first time.
  • As a result, we now know that a candidate can successfully win a bid for U.S. Senator with support from only 35% of the rural vote.

In blue-collar states like Georgia, economic patriotism is multifaceted and far more complicated than a bumper sticker policy. For example, amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate students of color. Looking deeper, we see how the stimulus package positively impacts young people everywhere. For many of us, having a job provided the sense of independence we needed to be responsible citizens, and after the recession, the stimulus package did the same. If you were lucky enough to have an employed family member before the recession, you not only benefited from their labor but the unemployment supplemental as well.

 Watching our community members provide for their family gave us all a sense of pride and passion for helping each other. That’s probably why the stimulus package was so crucial for young voters in Georgia and other states. It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person gets their first job and votes for the first time. These are two of the early meaningful investments they make to own their future. Not to mention how voting is one of the longest-lasting investments made by young people.

  • Georgia’s House District 111 (35% Black and 6% Latino with a significant youth population). 
  • This seat is in a county that gave President Obama 48% of the vote – just 2,925 votes from victory. 
  • Henry County has grown by 2.5% to 209,053, and cities like Stockbridge grew 2.5% to 26,281. Note that areas like this will have more than 14,000 “key” Voters of Color and could be decisive. Devoting resources to high performing VOC precincts here will give a tremendous return on investment.

What will be the long-term impact? Through redistricting, anti-voting rights politicians controlled politics for a decade. At one point, they held both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, 9 of the fourteen congressional seats, the governorship, and both state legislative bodies. As a result, Georgia residents lived under political leadership that did not represent their interests. Can students of color repair the damage and turn it around? Yes. As the future of Georgia politics begins to take shape, there are new principles in play. These students have paid their dues and earned an upgrade. They deserve the best life has to offer and won’t settle for less. Politicians should match that in actions as well as words.

 To be continued …

 Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Explore Our Talents, Help Students of Color #MoreThanAvote #2R1WM #B4uVote #EveryStateVoteNow

“I don’t make records for pleasure. I did when I was a younger artist, but I don’t today. I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.” – Marvin Gaye.

 As a student at the University of Cincinnati, I was a member of the Racial Awareness Program (RAPP) – a program created to allow space and structure for students to engage in meaningful intergroup dialogue on issues of race and social justice. Every trimester we would take a retreat to explore race, culture, gender, socioeconomic class, sexuality, and other areas of difference. We would share our personal experiences and build on a shared commitment to creating a more just community. Many meaningful moments stand out, but there’s one that seemed to sum-up our time together. 

 After participating in a weekend of “race awareness” activities, each person was asked what they would do if they could wave a magic wand and create change. A member told the group, “honestly, it may sound shocking, but I would change the history of slavery because things didn’t seem to work out for African Americans.” She did not like how it felt to be a slave during the race awareness activities and was not interested in experiencing this her entire life. Over the next few months, we talked, learned together, and spent time walking in other people’s shoes. 

 By most accounts, she lived a privileged life and was the center of most interactions and institutions she participated in on campus. Even though she genuinely accepts others and is a quick study, she didn’t have much background knowledge of race relations. She didn’t have prerequisite familiarity and competences in key cultural areas, including civic engagement, education, and systemic racism, which inhibited her social justice development. To help her make that connection, we spent our time together discovering where these gaps of awareness and understanding were. We then put in a lot of work, plugging these holes with culturally relevant experiences and information to better understand issues. The goal was to begin the process of providing a substantial understanding of our culture in nine months.

 Ending systemic racism is a long and deliberate effort. Our teachers must first acknowledge it exists, then research and learn culturally relevant curricula. Educators have to teach students to be antiracists deliberately. Lastly, we must develop lesson plans from the student of color’s perspective to address generational trauma and social-economic justice issues. We need an evidence-based teaching strategy that embraces our differences and enriches our learning experiences. Using a distinctive approach like this means that we empathize with students of color and understand their experiences as our responsibility too. By recognizing the personal experiences they come to school with, we connect their past state of fluctuation, education, and abilities to the convergence of their everyday lives.

 My grandmother said it best. She would say, “everyone is blessed with at least one unique talent. Take time now to discover, define, and develop your talent. Don’t go to your grave with your untapped talent buried inside you.” Her point was that all students of color have unique capabilities. The key to helping them succeed is to engage in inspiring activities that capitalize on their educational experiences. While doing so, we unearth their talent by being familiar with the disparities from many heritages — cultural, socioeconomic, racial, and sex. We have to reach out to each other, regardless of our distinctive culture contrasts, enthusiasm, or particular kinships. This will fundamentally bring about change for every student — students who arrive in our schoolrooms each year, and potentially those who do not.

Students are extraordinarily capable individuals, and they can accomplish amazing feats if we inspire and support them.

 Fundamental change is what it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. Last week I spent time talking with my NAACP mentee while he was on the campaign trail, and we explored this issue. We spoke about past civil rights campaigns the “good old days.” After I told him a story about my time in Toledo, Ohio, and the 1964 Rambler I drove, he teased me. We laughed about how the passenger side floorboard had rusted out, and I would drive over puddles, so no one wanted to ride shotgun when it rained. We talked about the places I would go to and how owning my first car gave us a sense of empowerment. Even though they got wet occasionally, passengers benefited too.

 We talked about how Ohioans have and always will rely on jobs from places like the auto industry and the recent stimulus package. As voters, students of color know what it means to have family members working over fifty-five hours a week on a Jeep line in Toledo. Now that we’ve lost so many jobs, those workers need help making ends meet. Maybe that’s why voters are so disappointed about politicians failing to pass a stimulus package. Like the stimulus package, the auto industry supports 1 of every eight jobs in Ohio, and many of these jobs are essential for students of color.

 Amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate civic engagement. After seeing how this impacts students of color, I started to wonder what the stimulus package’s long-term effects would be in places like Ohio and Georgia. Will this widening opportunity divide in public education, economic justice, and healthcare play out similarly in both states?

  • Voters of color make up 33% of Georgia’s registered voters (30% Black, 2% Latino, and 1% Asian).
  • Georgia has over 850,000 Latino residents, and 26% are eligible to vote.
  • Nationally close to 52,000 Latinos turn 18 every month, and 9 out of 10 of those are eligible to vote.
  • Latinos will account for 52% of Georgia’s new eligible voters.

Looking at a new study, it seems that the U.S. is on track to have a similar electorate as 2008, where the youth made up 18% of the vote. As witnessed on the state level in 2008, an energized student of color electorate gave President Obama the victory in Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey (Georgia was close). While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for both Ohio and New Jersey in 2008, that number in Virginia was 21%.

  • New Jersey’s Hudson county population grew by 4% to 634,266, and the Jersey City population increased 3% to 247,597. 
  • This is a substantial majority of Latino, African American, and Asian American city and has well over 95,000 key VOC.

Diversity in the electorate is good for our democracy. Students of color are key voters, and as demographics shift, with culture and community necessities transforming in the next decade, our politics will as well. First, our political leaders must listen carefully to students of color. Educators must keep an open mind while being persistent in constantly assembling and teaching evidence-based information and data. Lastly, future employers must analyze their approach and methodology to cultivate talent and help students of color thrive after they graduate. We must pin our ears back, reflect on our past, and encourage students of color to achieve their aspirations. Students are extraordinarily capable individuals, and they can accomplish amazing feats if we inspire and support them.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Pour On The Passion, Students of Color Can Amplify Our Success #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote #EveryStateVoteNow

“Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” – Marvin Gaye.

I remember my first time participating in a Presidential Inauguration. My grandmother and I volunteered for the Clinton / Gore ’92 Presidential campaign early in the election cycle, and we received inaugural ball tickets allowing us to attend the big dance. Later, she signed us up to help with the event set up. Nervous about beating the closing time for renting a tuxedo, I was less than enthusiastic about how long “bag stuffing” was taking. My grandmother pulled me aside and reminded me, “Pour on the passion and put your heart into everything you do. A lukewarm effort produces mediocre results. If you pour on the passion, you’ll experience an intense success in all your achievements.” She was right. The harder I work, the better I felt. The more passionate I became, the better I performed. It benefitted me later in life — I joined the D.N.C. as a campaign trainer. My passion allowed me to successfully lead regional trainings for presidential campaign managers for the 1996 presidential campaign.

What it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis? While having a conversation with an NAACP mentee, I pointed out how authentic, passionate, and righteous movements attract hardworking “pro-public education” advocates and students of color. What’s more important to understand is that to cultivate passionate young movement leaders, we must be careful to have faith in these students’ interests and nurture their natural propensity to question authority. It’s easy to forget that as we push them to support a “traditional” agenda, they will be less active and take up less space civically. So, loosening institutional “vintage” policies and allow the students to make adjustments to civic engagement programs from time to time is key. Instead of pushing standard concepts on students of color, let them choose from a list of essential issues that match their passion. Design cooperative valuations that establish connections with the institution’s overarching principles and allow students to support naturally aligned issues.

For example, amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate civic mentorships. By expanding the leadership pool as mentors, we are molding students of color to take leadership of our movements. While learning from them how it works, we’ll be demonstrating what we value. As a result of meeting them where they are, we transform their analytical perspicacity as we compensate for our lagging activism indicators. In the long run, creating diverse methods to improve the capability of students of color will boost civic engagement performance while they learn to deliberate more meaningfully, judiciously, and forcefully.

A prosperous society is built on a nucleus of hardworking, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy people.

A well resourced public education, economic justice, and a robust healthcare system are key to grow our community. This is why choosing political leaders are the most critical exercises in judgment a nation performs. It offers a rare view of the nation’s core values and beliefs. For example, students of color would be in terrible shape if politicians defunded public education, repealed our current healthcare system, and changed Medicare for the worse. As a result, we would see this impact on everyone’s daily lives in our communities, including our seniors.

Of the 47 million Americans covered by Medicare or Medicare Advantage, the elderly makeup most of our nation’s most vulnerable who depend on the red, white, and blue Medicare card. This economic policy has significant real-life implications. Before it was inception in 1965, one in three seniors lived in poverty, many having spent their life savings on costly medical care. Today, only one in six older adults are in poverty due to medical cost. Medicare has made a difference.

Many experts note that the senior voting block is one of the most educated and active constituencies in politics. Therefore, this provides us with an exceptional opportunity to discuss the need for a balanced approach to America’s health and financial security.

Further, Medicare is one of the best issues for debating the role and size of the government. Shrinking the current size and function of healthcare may affect our economy. A recent study underscores how serious Medicare’s issue is for senior voters — especially voters of color. According to the survey-

 ● Two-thirds of Latino and Three-Fourths of African American senior voters plan to rely on Medicare even more due to the economy’s state.

 ● 49% of Latinos and 35% of African Americans are not confident that Medicare will be there for them and future generations.

 ● 90% of Latinos and 97% of African Americans say the next President and Congress need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.

 ● 97% of Latinos and 98% of African Americans believe political leaders need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

To get a better sense of Medicare’s significance, I remember a conversation with my Grandma. “Baby, these politicians will tell you anything to get elected. The truth is, I now get several benefits after Obamacare.”

She reminded me of how the family struggled to help her pay prescription costs until she started receiving the discounts. “Remember how you were shocked at the bill? I think it’s called closing the doughnut hole.” We also talked about how seniors now get free wellness visits and the limit on out of pocket costs for things like co-pays. She shot back, “how will it work if they repeal it?”

I couldn’t answer that because I haven’t seen a new healthcare plan to replace Obamacare. I’ve seen “A Pledge to America” in 2010, but nothing happened. No wonder these politicians have some of the lowest approval ratings in history; at times, only 10% of Americans approved their job. According to the study, more than 62% of Latinos and 67% of African American senior voters disapprove of these politicians.

That’s why it’s so interesting that our seniors feel abandoned – 64% of Latino and 65% of African American seniors believe their economic circumstances have been negatively affected by these politicians. Also, 88% of Latinos and 93% of African Americans think Medicare is critical to maintaining their health.

Those two numbers may indicate why politicians are having such a hard time connecting with voters on a personal level. A reported 74% of Latinos and 80% of African American seniors say “learning the politician’s plans on strengthening and reforming” Medicare would help them decide who to vote for. Yet 48% of Latinos and 39% of African American seniors say politicians are not doing a good job explaining their plans to strengthen and or reform Medicare. To them, if you don’t have a comprehensive healthcare plan, people may take it to mean you’re hiding something.

Are V.O.C. in swing states paying attention to this debate? Will Americans vote for the person they trust? To figure this out, we should look to states like Nevada, where the country gained a Congressional seat and an electoral vote after the 2010 census.

  • V.O.C. now makes up 28% of the citizen voting-age population, and 60% of them are registered to vote.
  • V.O.C. represented 26% of the electorate in 2008, and that number jumped to 29% in 2010.
  • That year, Latinos represented 16% of the vote share, and 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. While North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 and now has over 46,000 “key” V.O.C. in the area, it will take plenty of resources to engage this electorate.
  • Note that 88% of Nevada’s baby boomers disapprove of the job these politicians are doing, and 93% believe they need to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

For over 46 years, Medicare has made a difference for millions of Americans. It is one government program that has worked so well that people don’t think it’s a government program at all. Many seniors say that “if I didn’t have Medicare, doctor bills could wipe me out and put a burden on my kids.” Paying six thousand dollars more for insurance may not sound like much, but if you’re a senior citizen living on a fixed income and you’re already counting every penny, that is serious money.

Each voter must make deliberate choices about who we will support, which means weighing and mulling over each option. After a lot of tough decisions, we will cast our vote and live with the consequences. As my Grandma said, “I don’t care about getting credit for being the generation that created Medicare.” All that matters is that it works, and everyone has access to it when we need it. She reminded me that we all stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They taught us that America works best when we all passionately help each other become successful. A prosperous society is built on a nucleus of hardworking, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy people. Trust is important. The thing is, “you can’t buy trust; you earn it.”

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Destroy The Doubt, Students of Color Can Effect Change #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“High standards can be contagious. But it doesn’t necessarily happen through osmosis. Sometimes you have to budge people into doing the right thing—either by example or in a more obvious way.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs 

While growing up, I was taught that my community’s injustices could be fixed if I engaged in the electoral process. However, after spending considerable time volunteering to register voters, I didn’t see the immediate impact. Since I didn’t notice things changing in my neighborhood, I couldn’t see how civic engagement was useful. I shared my feelings with the local NAACP youth and college division director, and she gave me some advice. “First, you must eliminate the doubt that you can effect change, then we will receive what we are due, and justice will be done.” Her point to me was that we have to release the doubt that we can create change and accept the challenge to change what we consider unacceptable, then we will see the impact.

Like the time I volunteered to stuff envelopes for Marcy Kaptur’s Congressional campaign. It was my first experience campaigning, and I spent hours licking and sticking stamps before mailing them at the post office. I wanted to make a difference and help create social change by being active civically for women issues. At the time, there was an awe-inspiring movement in U.S. politics to diversify political leadership — electing more African Americans, women, and young people to office. Perhaps it was the legacy of passing the voting rights act or just the natural next step in our political evaluation, but I wanted to be a part of it. 

“I don’t vote because we don’t see the immediate impact.” I heard a young activist say while the group was eating dinner between shifts. She was right, and we would hear statements like that while talking with peers about voting. “Okay then, how can we persuade students of color to awaken and create long-term impact?” When students of color are inspired, they tend to be connected, remarkable and resourceful activists. If we link their issues, values, and inspiration to our life experiences and relationships, they will see their vote’s impact. The point was that we knew from experience when students of color understand the consequences of their actions and take personal responsibility for addressing an issue; their core values are inspirationally motivated. 

We must widen the circle of freedom so that all realize the American promise of liberty and justice for all.

Amid today’s persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must not separate everyday life relevance or prospective influence from civic engagement. I recently talked with a past NAACP mentee about what it’s going to take for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. We agreed that it has been like pushing a car up a hill in the sweltering heat. The truth is that voting is one of the most important vehicles that Americans have to get from one place in life to another and influence the policies that affect our lives. Therefore, when people need help voting, we should make every effort to help them because it makes our democracy work better.

I wish that were the logic behind restrictive voting laws that cut early in-person and vote by mail. These laws limit the days you can vote by changing the deadline for voters to vote by mail or early vote in-person. They turn a blind eye to the millions of voters who historically vote during the early vote days before Election Day. It dampens early-voters’ impact by impeding voters of color who plan to take advantage of that last few weekends. That’s why it’s essential to help voters cast an early ballot by mail or in person without an excuse. This increases civic participation and strengthens our democracy until we pass a law making Election Day a holiday with same-day registration.

As we know, voting early and voting by mail helps to ease the long lines on Election Day — something that makes headlines every election cycle. In 2000, the lines were so long in many places around the country that precincts closed before voters could cast their ballot. Nearly a million voters—close to 3% of all registered voters—had this experience. This led to legal contests in St. Louis, which affected Missouri’s U.S. Senate race. By closing the polling places before everyone in line was able to vote, many voters were disenfranchised. Voters who made extraordinary efforts to go to the polls were denied ballots due to no fault of their own.

Each of the nearly 200,000 polling places nationwide will handle about 500 voters on Election Day. Since we only have about 700,000 workers at the polls, early voting and voting by mail effectively ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. In 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohio voters cast ballots early – close to 30% of all ballots. Election Days are predicted to be more taxing for the foreseeable future as America gears up for record-breaking voter turnout due to the nation’s demographic shift. This is especially of concern for students of color.

According to a recent civic engagement report, Voters of Color (VOC) could turn out at an even higher future rate. 

  • The study proposes that if African-American registration rises to 78.3%, we could see 3 million more African American voters. 
  • The Latinx community grew to 50 million in 2010 while the Asian American – Pacific Islander (AAPI) population increased to 5.2% of the national population. 
  • If those demographic trends materialize, VOC could make up more than 23% of the eligible electorate.

There is a significant VOC population in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. These states were anti-public education strongholds until recently. Also, each state became more pro-public education as the demographics began to change. There is strong evidence that political geography is why pro-public education leaders improved their 2000 electoral performance by more than seven points in each state. Moreover, experts believe that Virginia’s and Nevada’s recent purple propensities are powered by 55% and 71% AAPI growth since 2000.

Population growth is an essential factor in predicting turnout. The voting laws in Ohio are based on the misconception that VOC will not be 17% of the electorate. As an unintended consequence, Ohio may disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters. Worst yet, this will turn a blind eye to the profound and chronic problems of race and discrimination in voting practices. 

What is the most important thing we can do to cultivate a civic engagement mindset for students of color? Collective, evidence-based, and reflective systems change essential. Based on data, their involvement, capabilities, and conversations within peer groups, we can inspire and motivate young people to vote. We must assess our nation’s successes and failures, fine-tune our approach to democracy, and start all over again where necessary. This practice will allow us to improve exponentially year after year. Our ultimate goal should be to help students of color manage and advocate for themselves, elect leaders that share their interests, and pass laws that expand democracy to every American. We must widen the circle of freedom so that all realize the American promise of liberty and justice for all.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.