- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

American blacks face the end of civil rights under the new Republican-controlled Congress, and need to force the Democratic Party further to the left as a remedy, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other liberal black leaders said yesterday at a voter-participation forum.
Last week's results "positions us to see the end of the second Reconstruction," said Mr. Jackson in a conference at the National Press Club.
"Next year, the right wing is going to control the White House, the House, the Senate and the courts virtually every civil rights remedy will be made illegal next year," the two-time former Democratic presidential hopeful predicted.
He blamed the demise of many Democrats in last week's midterm elections on "tactical foolishness and a failure to appeal to black voters."
"In many cases, the Democrats had an identity crisis," said Mr. Jackson, who made failed presidential bids in 1984 and 1988.
"We can't follow [Democratic National Committee Chairman] Terry McAuliffe. We can't wait for [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi," a California Democrat and front-runner for House minority leader, Mr. Jackson added. "We can take it back in 2004 if we just vote our numbers."
Because of unspecified technical glitches, the Voter News Service, a consortium of news services, could not provide reliable demographic information on the Nov. 5 election.
"We believe that when the numbers are finally in, the black turnout will be on par with the overall turnout rate of 39.3 percent estimated by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate," said Melanie Campbell, executive director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, which sponsored yesterday's event. "This is consistent with nonpresidential elections."
Black voter turnout in some states increased, in fact. Florida, Georgia, and Texas all showed increases in black turnout at the polls over 1998, the last midterm elections.
In California and Maryland, though, black voter turnout appeared to be lower than in 1998. In Maryland, state Democrats had unsuccessfully lobbied gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to pick a black as her running mate for lieutenant governor, as her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., did with Michael Steele.
In predominantly black Prince George's County, an estimated 43,000 voters, or almost 20 percent of the county's vote, supported the Republican Mr. Ehrlich.
Most panelists refused to accept recent studies that find many younger blacks now consider themselves political independents and even favor less-liberal policies.
"Young people are not more conservative," said George Curry, editor in chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. "Look at how we vote 9 to 1 Democratic. We are not so stupid that we can't vote our interests. Democrats are more in our interests."
Neither former President Bill Clinton nor Al Gore won the white vote in presidential elections in 1992, 1996 and 2000, respectively. Both were pushed by a strong black vote.
Democrats can continue winning the black vote by a wide margin by following the traditional black Democratic agenda, panelists said. A hold on that constituency could start with today's election of a new House minority leader.
Some panel participants preferred the more-liberal, white Mrs. Pelosi over the black centrist, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat.
"Nancy Pelosi is a liberal, and with her, we know where we stand," said Ron Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute and a professor at the University of Maryland. "Harold Ford is nice, but he is too far right. What we have to do is make the strongest demand for the party to come back to the left.
"Tom Daschle is too timid. He has to go," Mr. Walters said. "Terry McAuliffe has to go."


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