HOPE DESERVES A SIMPLE VOTE, NOT ANOTHER SHOWDOWN

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to...
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy speaking to a crowd of African Americans and whites through a megaphone outside the Justice Department; sign for Congress of Racial Equality is prominently displayed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Washington’s Political Gridlock Can Become A Self-inflicted Wound

 

For months there have been endless warnings of the economic, military, and societal decay that will take effect if obstructionists in Congress repeat their 2012 “do-nothing” tactics. Their political roadblocks now extend past traditionally non-partisan issues like infrastructure spending to include Presidential appointments. Without question, the class of 2010 has spent too much time fighting the commonsense proposals of a twice elected President that has the overwhelming support of the American public. This reminds me of something my grandpa would say – “Son, this seems like a long hot walk for a short drink.”

One of the most egregious recent examples of this obstruction has nothing to do with past political inaction but everything to do with the future of voter empowerment. As the President pointed out in his State of the Union speech, Americans like 102-year-old Desline Victor waited hours to cast her ballot in 2012. It’s a shame that 49 years after the 24th amendment banned the discriminatory practice of the poll tax people of color (POC) are still saying “we deserve a simple vote.” What’s more troubling is that even the Republican’s brightest leader who is a person of color refused to mention the Voter Empowerment Act – a bill that would ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans – in his response to the State of the Union speech. In fact, he barely mentioned immigration reform.

It’s unacceptable that Latinos and African Americans waited an average of 20 minutes to cast their ballot in the 2012 election. That’s nearly twice as long as whites. It’s even more astonishing that nothing is being done in states like New Jersey and Virginia that have a contested race for Governor this year. A New York Times/CBS News poll points out that voters in Virginia waited an average of 23.6 minutes to vote. Also, thousands may have left the polls without voting.

It’s no wonder that people of color are voting for Democrats more these days. Just look at the Asian American (API) vote for example. Their national vote share has ballooned from 2% of votes cast in 2004 to 3% in 2012. Moreover, the API citizen voting-age population (CVAP) is now over 3% and their support for Democrats increased from 56% in ’04 to 73% in ’12. In 1992, President William Clinton only received 31% of their vote.

What does this mean for Congress? Will the rising electorate of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, unions, and young voters force Congressional extremists to change their obstructionist ways? As people of color begin to exert their political influence, will these self-inflicted wounds help the Democrats flip the Red House to Blue in 2014?

No one knows for sure but President Obama did win a bunch of Republican congressional districts in 2012. In particular, he won New Jersey’s CD 2 with over 53% of the vote in both ’08 and ’12. This seat has over 100,000 voters of color fired up and ready to vote at a moment’s notice. We also see the potential impact in upstate Bergen County where over 25% of the eligible voters are not registered. The population in this county, which includes Hackensack, has grown 2.4% to 905,116 residents and is now 6% African American, 16% Latino, and 14% Asian Pacific Islander. This is a significant factor given that Hackensack has over 14,000 “key” voters of color and precincts like Hackensack 2-01 could be a bellwether.

As we move forward, the work of authentic leaders like New Jersey’s Cory Booker will play a significant role in helping to shape the electoral landscape. If passed, the Voter Empowerment Act will improve our electoral process by decreasing barriers to voting. However, as election reform results begin to run parallel with the level of progressive civic participation, expect an increase in the effort to obstruct these policies. The only cure for this form of politics is hope and change.

What many politicians don’t understand is that in order to inspire voters they have to embrace hope.  In fact, it’s probably the only way to survive in this new political environment. We now see Americans feeling better about the direction of the country and rejecting the dark clouds of the past. The old strategy of “do-nothing” is wearing thin on this electorate’s patience. As voters become hopeful they tend to want more. They want more from their leaders, and deserve more than the usual dysfunction– they deserve a simple vote. That’s popping the clutch.

###

Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

CALL TO THE RISING AMERICAN ELECTORATE: IT’S IN YOUR HANDS

New Jersey is the most densely populated state...
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

President Obama & Cory Booker Represent More Than The Turning of the Tide

There were many uplifting moments last week for progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color. The week was filled with energetic political events, parades, and plenty of moments that did more than entertain, they inspired.

Looking forward, the progressive network now has a unique opportunity to expand, deepen and strengthen its proven game-changing system which turns out record levels of voters of color (VOC). As demonstrated in 2012, these VOC 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 important 2014 mid-term elections where candidates of color are poised to become U.S. Senators if this voter power is tapped.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker represents a perfect example of what can happen in 2014.  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 fashion values can create a new brand of social patriotism.
New Jersey has experienced significant demographic changes which has impacted its political environment. The state has the seventh largest Latino population in the United States. Nearly 25% of NJ’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 Mayor Booker doing well against other possible candidates for the 2014 U.S. Senate race. A new poll by PowerPAC.org shows New Jersey Democrats overwhelming supporting Mr. Booker over Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. New Jersey voters want to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate by a margin of two to one. The poll also confirmed that Booker would easily defeat incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.
What’s driving his numbers? The poll shows Booker’s advantages holding across geography, populations, and issues. Also, his social media savvy helps 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 man’s best friend.  That kind of social patriotism resonates strongly with voters.
By contrast, Pallone, Sweeney and Andrews, are not very well-known among the state’s registered Democrats, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented NJ in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.

 

Understanding the nature of VOC civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. In the past, authenticity may have been a second tier concern but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics.  Appealing to pockets of VOC 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 are with conduits that intimately understand those communities.

 

There are a few ways to ensure that VOC achieve their 31% vote share from the past election. 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. Overtime they will find it easier to step outside of their comfort zones and themselves. Then their actions will make a difference for others as well as themselves because it is the responsible thing to do. That’s popping the clutch.

Poll results can be found here. (“PowerPAC Poll on NJ Senate Race (PowerPoint File) PowerPAC”)

###

Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

NEW JERSEY’S RISING ELECTORATE, READY TO VOTE

 

By Kirk Clay

 

Image representing Cory Booker as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

 

Booker Leads Pallone & Sweeney by More Than 2 to 1 for Lautenberg’s Seat

 

Washington, D.C.  – In a new poll released today by PowerPAC.org, New Jersey Democrats are expressing overwhelming support for Cory Booker as their next U.S. Senator over potential rival candidates Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. By a margin of two to one, New Jersey voters want to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate.

 

PowerPAC’s also poll confirmed that Booker would easily defeat incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.  Booker’s advantages hold across geography, populations, and issues, according to N.J. Democratic voters.  “The population of New Jersey closely mirrors the Rising American Electorate of progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color,” said Steve Phillips, Chair of PowerPAC.org, “and this poll shows that the people of New Jersey clearly want Mayor Booker to become Senator Booker in 2014.”

 

Pallone, Sweeney and Andrews, according to the poll, are not very well-known among the state’s registered Democrats, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented NJ in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.   Those registered voters who do have an opinion on 11-term Member of Congress Frank Pallone are split evenly between those with a positive opinion of him and those with a negative opinion.

 

Methodology: PowerPAC.org worked with Merriman River Group to survey 1,170 New Jersey registered Democrats from January 7thto 9th. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/-2.90%.  The survey was conducted through automated telephone interviews.

 

Poll results can be found here. (“PowerPAC Poll on NJ Senate Race (PowerPoint File) PowerPAC”)

 

###

 

Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

 

PowerPAC is a national social justice advocacy organization focused on expanding democracy by increasing civic participation of people of color.  In 2008, PowerPAC conducted a multi-state, multi-million dollar voter registration and mobilization program in 18 states, including New Jersey, during the 2008 Presidential election.  In 2012, PowerPAC launched PAC+, a new SuperPAC for America’s New Majority. 

 

VOTERS OF COLOR ARE CHANGING AMERICAN POLITICS

By Kirk Clay

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Marti...
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 1966 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Will Voters of Color Take Advantage of Their New Influence In Congress?

 

There are certainly plenty of reasons for America to celebrate the beginning of 2013. First, January is the month we recognize Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday. Second, January represents a time in American history when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  And finally next month we will witness the second inauguration of the nation’s first African American President.

This inauguration reminds us that in order to realize our dreams, we have to participate!  A few weeks ago voters of color (VOC) joined other Americans to decide how the government will 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 an agenda that will have a far reaching impact on this nation.

 

In short, the next four years is 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, extracts and repurposes revenue, and ensures that the government continues to expand democracy to everyone living in America.

 

Also, the 113th Congress will have over 18 new members of color joining other progressive Congress members to shape our legislative process. They’re coming from states with significant VOC populations like California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas.

So how will this affect Congress next year? The majority of the 18 new members are from districts where Democrats received outsized support from progressive whites and VOC in key precincts. This support from voters will help Congress members offset most of the political deficits they could face while compromising and deal making next year. This makes it difficult for the other side to sustain an obstructionist strategy without publically appearing to be “sore losers.”

Moreover, the President has the bully pulpit. Just like in the 2012 campaign, the new coalition of progressive voters makes 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 will be a legislative firewall during the immigration 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 had success reaching unique pockets of voters during the 2012 campaign will have an advantage in 2013. 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 and proved to be clutch—it delivered a powerful 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 New Year, the new Congress, the new coalition of progressive voters and another historic moment. On January 21st America honors Martin Luther King, Jr. as the world witnesses the inauguration of President Obama. It will also be 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 a President who has the opportunity to govern with a more forward set of strategies. This makes it easier for us to support the policies we believe in. That’s popping the clutch.

###

Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac