Republicans have done little to woo black voters. Hillary Clinton trotted out
Congressional Black Caucus members; Bernie Sanders recruited
state lawmakers. Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis took up
Hillary's cause. Former NAACP President Ben Jealous has been preaching the gospel of Bernie in black churches.
Endorsement spots are running
on hip-hop stations. Historically, these tactics have worked at getting out the vote, but they alone won't cut it. The best way to win black voters is by addressing their most important need: good paying jobs.
Growing up in South Carolina in the 1970s, a local community leader came to our home during election week to tell my mother who to support. He brought sample ballots. Mom obliged. Those days are over.
African-Americans are more knowledgeable and analytical voters, less likely to engage in group think. Most stay dialed in on politics through cable news and social media like Facebook and Twitter. They want accountability and expect candidates to earn their votes --not simply by incorporating criminal justice reform and voting rights messaging into stump speeches. They want economic policies that support minority businesses and create jobs; and for good reason.
Despite continuous job growth, the black unemployment rate nationally is twice
that of whites. Blacks are nearly 14% of the U.S. population, but own only 7%
of the country's businesses. Arguably, the scarcity of thriving minority-owned businesses has contributed to some of the joblessness, the root of many of the ills plaguing poor neighborhoods.
In this election year, we can't afford to see America's ongoing racial and ethnic transformation in purely political terms --as in, which candidate gains or loses votes cast by an electorate that has more blacks and Latinos and fewer whites.
Minorities are clearly a key driver of America's future economy as the country's workforce has been changing far more significantly than its politics for the past 36 years.
By 2020, the white share of the working-age population will have declined
by 19 percentage points since 1980. The share of the working-age population that is made up of minorities will have doubled
to 37 percent. The fact that minorities will make up more than a third of the workforce means that our next president must implement policies that address the economic plight of people of color.
I see the economic plight when I return to my hometown of Lancaster. Folks once worked at the textile mill and patronized black-owned stores, barbershops, and doctor's offices along a downtown strip called "The Hill." When the textile plant closed, so did "The Hill."
Our tightly knit social structure unraveled. Eventually, crime and violence increased.
Baltimore is a more recent, extreme portrait of America's racial and socioeconomic imbalance. It was on display during last April's riots
that were the manifestation of the residents' frustration with more than police abuses that prompted violent demonstrations. Their anger was also rooted in their lack of upward economic mobility.
Baltimore's Southern Baptist Church is rebuilding
its apartment complex and community center partially built but set afire during the riots. This may represent change. But it's not a tangible indication of the structural economic renaissance that Baltimore and other struggling minority communities need to survive.
With these problems staring them in the face not only in South Carolina but across America, what solutions have the candidates presented to create businesses and jobs? Hillary Clinton has offered plans
, but other candidates, including boastful businessman Donald Trump, have not stepped up
Let me be clear: The president alone should not and cannot solve these problems. What's needed is targeted private sector investment in minority communities, anchored with sound government policies, to develop high-growth enterprises and raise wages, in sectors such as energy, technology and manufacturing.
Sound policies include freeing up capital for minority businesses; incentivizing major companies to locate in distressed areas; enhancing opportunities to do government work and access markets abroad; promoting innovation and entrepreneurship; and investing in STEM and job training. These and other measures will help bring minorities living on the margins into the economic mainstream. However, the challenge for minorities is to align their political strength with their economic needs.
In 2012, the percentage of black voters (66.2) exceeded whites
(64.1). For Democrats, high black turnout is essential. For Republicans, winning a few percentages of black votes can determine the outcome in battleground states. Black votes can be the swing votes. That's tremendous power if leveraged correctly.
It's not enough for candidates to just say that black lives matter. So do businesses and jobs. These investments will help close the income divide and reduce poverty. This election should be about more than partisan gamesmanship. It ought to be about policies that bring economic prosperity to all Americans.