When blacks gave 80 percent of their vote to the Democratic Party in 1964, black activist Malcolm X called them “political chumps.”
White voters, X said, “are so evenly divided that every time they vote, the race is so close they have to go back and count the votes all over again. Which means that any bloc, any minority that has a bloc that sticks together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it.”
Yet Democrats, said Malcolm X, failed to deliver on a promised and much anticipated new civil rights bill, knowing the party could still count on their blind support in the next election.
“You put them first,” said Malcolm X, “and they put you last. ‘Cause you’re a chump. A political chump! … Any time you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you are dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party — you’re not only a chump but you’re a traitor to your race.”
What would Malcolm X say about today’s 95 percent black vote? Did the Democratic Party keep its promises to promote family stability, push education and encourage job creation?
The black community, over the last 50 years, has suffered an unparalleled breakdown in family unity. Even during slavery when marriage was illegal, a black child was more likely than today to be raised under a roof with his or her biological mother and father. According to census data, from 1890 to 1940, said economist Walter Williams, a black child was slightly more likely to grow up with married parents than a white child. What happened?
When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, 24 percent of black babies were born to unmarried mothers. Today that number is 72 percent. Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said in 2008: “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves.”
Not only has family breakdown coincided with increased government spending, but the money has not done much to reduce the rate of poverty. From 1965 until now, the government has spent $15-20 trillion to fight poverty. In 1949, the poverty rate stood at 34 percent. By 1965, it was cut in half, to 17 percent — all before the so-called War on Poverty. But after the war began in 1965, poverty began to flat line. It appears that the generous welfare system allowed women to, in essence, marry the government — and it allowed men to abandon their financial and moral responsibility, while surrendering the dignity that comes from being a good provider. Psychologists call dependency “learned helplessness.”
About the importance of education, Malcolm X once said, “My alma mater was books, a good library. … I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” What would he say about the Democratic opposition to school vouchers — where the money would follow the student rather than the other way around?
Urban schools, where students are disproportionately black and brown, are simply not producing children who can read, write and compute at grade level. The dropout rate can approach 50 percent in some urban districts. Nationwide, 10 percent of parents send their kids to private school. But in cities like Philadelphia and Chicago, 40 percent or more of teachers send their own kids to private schools.
Democrats don’t do blacks any favor by supporting “race-based preferences” in admissions to colleges and universities. Turns out, the more a school lowers standards to achieve “diversity,” the greater the chance the “diverse” student drops out.
More than that, Democrats have convinced blacks that but for race-based preferences, black growth would suffer. Nonsense. Respected researchers Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom wrote: “The growth of the black middle class long predates the adoption of race-conscious social policies. In some ways, indeed, the black middle class was expanding more rapidly before 1970 than after.”
Finally, as to the economy, then-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., admitted: “With 14 percent (black) unemployment, if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House. …The President knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn’t to someone white.”
Democratic policies have contributed to family breakdown, maintained underperforming urban schools — with no opt out for parents — and have promoted tax-spend-and-regulate economic policies that have resulted in a level of unemployment described as “unconscionable” by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
So would Malcolm X call today’s black voter a political “chump” — or a political “traitor”?
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.