When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, an article was published in the New York Times entitled “The End of Black Politics.” The accompanying graphic or photo showed silhouettes of accomplished Black male elected officials and activists. The most recognizable image was that of Georgia Congressman, John Lewis. Lewis is the perfect study of movement/activist politics transformed into electoral politics. As a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis was a prominent activist outside of his direct work with Dr. King. SNCC was engaged in voter registration throughout the south. One can say that SNCC joined forces with SCLC, the Southern Christian Leader Council. The SCLC was lead by Dr. King. John Lewis also addressed the March on Washington in 1963. John Lewis became the bloodied symbol of Bloody Sunday when he suffered a cracked skull in Selma in 1965. He was elected to Congress in 1986 when defeated another Civil Rights icon, Julian Bond. By displaying Lewis’s image so prominently, the New York Times piece seemed to convey that Black politics as we knew it was no longer necessary or perhaps had become obsolete given the fact that the grand prize in politics had been achieved by a Black man. Lewis dispelled than notion when led a sit-in in the House of Representatives and came out in protest of Donald Trump’s Inauguration.
President Obama’s election to the presidency did not signal the end of Black politics in the way in which the New York Times article implied. However, there is a more nefarious development underway regarding Black politics. We are currently witnessing the eclipse of Black politics. This eclipse is occurring on two fronts. One is occurring by omission. The other is occurring by commission. Whether intentional or unintentional, the end result is the same.
There was another significant article regarding race published when Barack Obama was elected President back in 2008. This article was published by The Atlantic Monthly. This article was entitled “The End of White People.” The article suggested that demographic shifts would reflect in electoral politics thus ending White dominance of politics. As we can now see, the end of White people did not occur either with the election of Barack Obama as President, twice. Nevertheless, there is a narrative in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party that is not sympathetic to Black Politics. We have a President who is choosing to govern with an administration whose lack of diversity gives no evidence that there was ever a Women’s Movement or a Civil Rights Movement. This is an Administration that is not only intentionally ignoring Black issues, but is locked into a concerted effort to roll back the clock on gains made as it relates to voting, incarceration, and combating police violence. The campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is proving be just what we thought it was. This was a call to advance the imagined interests of a White majority without any particular concerns for “minority” rights.
The Democrats are also experiencing their own eclipse of Black politics. There is a great deal of wrangling over who leads the Democratic Party. Tom Perez was recently elected as Chair of the Democratic National Committee. But as I understand it, leadership of the party flows from the presidency. Bernie Sanders is currently enjoying popularity among Democrats even though he is not a Democrat. He and Perez are currently on a unity tour across the United States. I wonder why this was not necessary when Obama and Clinton fought over the Democratic nomination in 2008. In my opinion Sanders is aiding in the eclipse of Black politics by insisting that his economic program addressed to the Trump voter is the way to lead Democrats back to electoral prominence. I also believed that Sanders failed to lead his constituency thus contributing to a Trump victory.
Heretofore, a sitting President or the most recent successful former President is considered the leader of the Party until as such time the part elects another President. In my way of thinking, Barack Obama should be seen as the leader of the Democratic Party without question. Moreover, 94 percent of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton. White women went for Trump to the tune of 53 percent. Less than fifty percent of White males voted for Hillary Clinton. Black men supported Clinton with 89 percent of their vote. It is quite disheartening to see the Democrats shy away from the Black vote. Perhaps the answer is to be found in the Prodigal Son allegory. The father spared no expense in recovering the wayward son much to the dismay of the faithful son. When asked by the faithful son to explain his actions, the father essentially explained to his faithful son that there was no need to seek to welcome him back because he had never left.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”