Posts Tagged ‘current-events’

Growing up in the south in the late 80s, amid the ashes of the Civil Rights Movement, I was routinely reminded that my generation, generation X or the post post-civil rights generation,stood on the shoulders” of those great men and women that preceded us. 

We were born well after voting rights and school integration, but one day my generation would be called upon to take the reins and write our own chapter in the history book of our people’s progress.  The notion was never contested nor forgotten.  Only thing, I was never told what to do if those who came before me would rather bequeath a cold shoulder than spare a friendly one as their generational parting gift.

In the 40 years since “Unbought and Unbossed,” I’ve watched the once audacious and divergent Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which once drafted a Black Declaration of Independence, grow larger in number and influence but shrink further and further from political relevancy and independence within the Democratic Party.  

So much so, that since the enactment of the King Holiday, I’m afraid many of my peers would fail to pinpoint any resonating, forward-looking proposal or cohesive action taken by the now 43-strong “conscience of the Congress” to rally around for the future.  Case in point, their recent walkout of the Capitol with the rest of the Democrat caucus contesting Attorney General Holder’s contempt vote this past June, barely raised an eyebrow in comparison to their Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) scheduled this week.

Although there are no more Adam Clayton Powell’s or Shirley Chisholm’s, the sole address for African-American politicos reads like a short list of “Who’s Who in Black History.”  Some are the former foot soldiers of SNCC, BPP, and the NAACP.  

Conversely, individuals like Georgia stalwart Rep. John Lewis remain irrefutable legends in their own right, while others have simply become relics of a proud but bygone era and political calculus better suited for the last century.

During his 2008 primary fight, then-Sen. Barack Obama alluded to being 14 years Sen. Clinton’s junior as an edge in recapturing the spirit of the younger generations, as well as breaking through the stifling arguments that consumed much of her husband’s presidency.  

Unfortunately, like the former first lady, more than half of the members of the current CBC are of the retiring baby boomer generation or older.

In the past, the story of our progress as a people was always inscribed in the voices and vigor of our youth.  In 1905, it was a 37 year-old Dubois that helped form the Niagara Movement

Dr. King was only 34, when he stepped onto the bright, marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963; and Rep. Chisholm and then-Sen. Obama were both candidates for the highest office in the land by the age of 47.

Yet, for the first time in our history, and against the wisdom of the past, we have kept our aging foot soldiers on the front lines effectively turning our politics into a venture of veterans.  Thus, alienating the very vitality and endurance of our youth that has always been at the very core spearheading our progressive campaigns.

In 1971, when the CBC was founded, the median age of its members was 45.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to 62, almost seven years above the median age for the entire House of Representatives.  This 17-year jump is mostly due to an aging class of pols groomed in the throes of the civil rights movement that insist on maintaining their seat at the head of the table of the black body politic.  

For example, after almost a century of combined Congressional tenures, longstanding members like Representatives Conyers and Rangel, ages 83 and 82, respectively, stand emblematic of our present problem.

This unwillingness to transition on into an elder statesman/mentor role and effectively enlist those of us who grew up reading about the Edmund Pettus Bridge rather than marching over it, has, in my opinion, left many of my generation not only estranged from the political process, but worse yet, more cynical about participatory politics.  

While out registering young people to vote in 2008 for President Obama, I was told by several African-Americans on the streets of Philadelphia that the national elections were not only rigged but that there was “no way” a black man could be elected President.  

Though the tenuous history between African-Americans and the ballot box is well documented, I believe some of the fault for these perspectives can be laid at our feet.  In almost every facet of life, be it academia, pop culture, sports, or religion, young African-Americans have long witnessed a “passing of the torch” or sea change.  Well, all except for, you guessed it–politics.  

In the world of politics, it’s as if Larry, Magic, and the rest of Jordan’s 1992 Dream Team are still first string, even though Lebron and Kobe are well into their prime.

During the 2010 midterms, I watched a brazen Tea Party movement, fully steeped and brewed, hijack the national political conversation and put forth candidates from Delaware to Nevada that echoed their sentiments around issues of taxation and debt

And last month, I watched that movement bear fruit on the national stage when 42 year-old Congressman Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate on the national Republican ticket.  

Immediately, I began to wonder: “Where was our young “Paul Ryan” of color?  Where were our new breed of foot soldiers for the 21st century to counter the Janesville native?  We can’t afford to wait on another “Obama” candidate!  

Mr. Ryan was first elected to Congress at age 28, and I cant help but think if some Congressional seats opened up in some of the traditionally minority districts, then maybe we could begin grooming our own twenty-something gurus to champion our modern issues.  He or she wouldn’t listen to AC/DC as Ryan noted, but possibly Jay-Z and Weezy.  They could begin to “occupy” our own street and start restoring the channels of communication and understanding between the youth and the policies that stand in their way.     

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we owe a great debt to the lions and lionesses of the civil rights generation, I just think they have brought us as far as they can.

I believe it’s time for the world to be introduced to the starters of the second half of our movement, men and women that can harness the full vernacular and power posed by social media like Obama, and be responsive in a moment’s notice through Twitter like Newark’s Cory Booker.  

These men and women would organize around green technology jobs and internet access and freedom in the same vein those great men and women of the past organized around living wages and voting rights in their day.

Like anyone, I am grateful for the past efforts of the caucus, but they must understand that today is a new day.  Our parents have their stories of how they helped tackle the larger issues of their day, its time we were left to tackle ours.  And if we are made to wait much longer, I’m afraid we do so at our own peril.  

Years ago, Rep. William Clay, Sr., a founding member of the CBC, famously stated, “black people have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”  And with all due respect, sir, though I thank you for your service, I now believe you’re on our time.

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In case you missed it, one of the most amazing and yet utterly ridiculous things to probably occur during the race for the Republican nomination happened the other day.  No, it wasn’t the former Speaker’s doubling down on his Jacksonian-like claim to manifest destiny well into the final frontier and create a moon colony in space before the end of his second term.  Nor was it Mitt Romney’s odd compliment to Michiganders for the “perfect” height of their state’s trees.  In fact, for a brief moment, through all the back and forth between the GOP hopefuls, one of the three stooges of conservatism actually landed a pretty decent attack on the President.  Only problem, it didn’t make sense.

Last week, Santorum took home the week’s “ridiculist” prize for his inane statement that President Obama was a “snob.”  Not that such claims of elitism and “uppity”-ness have never been levied against the nation’s first African-American president, but the senator did not refer to the President as a snob for the more obvious: his Harvard credentials, avid golf playing, or vacations in Martha’s Vineyard.  The senator from Pennsylvania evidently conjured up the spirit to accuse the President of snobbery because of his encouraging words for the nation’s young people to attend college.  Imagine that!

It has to make you literally scratch your head to figure out what target audience in the Republican Party that gem of a statement was aimed for.  But it has to make you pause and wonder even more why while such a statement has created instant fodder on center-left and left blogs such as the Huffington Post and received both ridicule and extensive examination from networks like MSNBC and CNN, the comment has been barely discussed if not defended by that bastion of cable conservatism, FOX NEWS.

Therein lies the problem.  In a nutshell, our mainstream news structure operates like your current cable package—tailored to your personal viewpoints and interests.  Want more NBA?  Tune into NBA TV.  Love black and white movies?  Well, you don’t want to miss the AMC movie channel.  Feel like President Obama is not your president no matter the results of the election?  Try the Fox News channel on for size.  Believe that Republicans despise poor people?  You’ll feel right at home at MSNBC.

Our nation’s news has become too subjective.  Long gone are the days of Cronkite.  Today, American’s political news sources have a case of ADD, and exists in a constant wrestling match over ratings.  In my opinion, if we are truly concerned about the state of our news, then we must make less room for punditry and make a return to objective “hard” news.  It is not enough to reject those messages from politicians that manipulate and divide, but also the programmers and messengers in the media that frame and dissect our current affairs to exploit our emotions as well.  And, if you disagree, then I’m sure there’s a channel for that too.  Or maybe it’s only on the moon?

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“Favoritism and influence are not…avoidable in representative politics.” – Justice Anthony Kennedy

In the world of comic books, most “super” beings can be readily identified by their backstory: natural selection by a panel of other “super” beings, serendipitous contact with a foreign green fluid-like substance, outer space ancestry, or a certain affinity for dark eye shadow.

And in the real world things aren’t so different. 

In early January 2010, one year after the current president was sworn into office, a panel of nine Washington, D.C. – based supreme beings handed down a decision that gave way to the newest group of “super” beings in our democracy —the “super” donors. The panel—the Supreme Court, and the decision, was, of course, the controversial Citizens United case.  Until then, individuals could spend unlimited sums of money supporting or opposing their chosen candidate, but only directly.  Now, individuals who once could only give $5,000 to their chosen candidate’s political action committee (PAC), are now empowered to give unlimited sums to Super PACs at their own discretion anonymously

To some, this new campaign reality has been a godsend, but to many others it is a step even further in the wrong direction for our democratic republic. In an article, by Lawrence Lessig, entitled Democracy After Citizens United, he states, “the framers did not intend to make representatives dependent upon contributors…representatives were to be dependent upon voters, or, more generally, the People alone.”  With the ever growing influence of money in politics, super donors are elevated to exert a level of influence over the electorate that hasn’t been seen since its founding.  In a way, Businessman Foster Friess becomes John Adams; Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is Benjamin Franklin; Paypal founder Peter Thiel is Alexander Hamilton; and PACs such as Mitt Romney’s and Newt Gingrich’s Restore Our Future and Winning Our Future Super PACs can stand to replace the entire Republican Party.

The Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that tracks all kinds of campaign finance and lobbying numbers has recently reported that since Citizens United, the amount of outside money spent in federal elections has grown an alarming 234 % since 2008. At this point in time, during the 2008 presidential campaign only $37.5 million had been raised by PACs, but today a whopping $88 million has already been spent in PAC money.

Today, when citizens of all stripes clamor for a more responsive and flexible government, one that seats all of us at the leadership table they’ll have to keep waiting.  Unfortunately, until the “super” in super donor is no more, very few of our votes will matter much at all.  So until the Supreme Court’s decision is reversed, I’ll gladly take a shot of green fluid to go.

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