Commentary: Black people are the Democratic Party

By Terrell A. Williams

Black people are the Democratic Party!

There, I said it! The Democratic Party’s success is tied to the participation and influence of Black voters — especially Black women.

Terrell Williams

Let’s stop the nonsense and put an end to this stupid narrative that Black people do not have a political party or political affiliation. The Black vote, and particularly the Black women’s vote, delivered this election to Biden-Harris. It is preposterous and willfully ignorant for anyone to assume that Black people do not have a place in the Democratic Party. As the Democratic Party’s leadership structure transitions from baby boomer White males to generations X, Y and Z minority women leaders (especially Black women), our representation and influence will increase. It is time for Black Americans to realize that our voices, votes and dollars control and influence the Democratic Party. Our issues only matter if we continue to participate in the political process and ensure that our candidates are elected.

This is not the Democratic Party of the civil rights era. This is not the Democratic Party that shunned Shirley Chisholm in the ’70s. This is not the Democratic Party that teased and placated Black people with the idea of a Jesse Jackson presidential nomination throughout the ’80s. This is not the Democratic Party that finally rallied around and supported President Barack Obama when it was clear that he was about to become the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. Black people have plenty of reasons to be reluctant — based on the history of the Democratic Party not delivering on its promises and on some of the personal baggage of candidates.

However, this is the Democratic Party that just elected our first Black vice president in Kamala Harris. This is the Democratic Party that just saw Stacey Abrams turn Georgia blue. This is the Democratic Party in which minority women like Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot; U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., lead a paradigm shift in progress policies and appearances.

To say the Democratic Party has changed is an understatement. This is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party, nor is it your mother’s Democratic Party. Black people — more importantly, Black women — are the Democratic Party

The process of infiltrating and rebranding the Democratic Party has been decades in the making. Without the participation and enthusiasm of Black voters, the Democratic Party has continuously lost presidential elections (1968, 1982, 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2016). I believe pressure should be brought to bear on President-elect Joe Biden to make social justice his legacy issue.

Moreover, I believe that Black people have a place in the (rebranded) Democratic Party — a prominent place. But not the same place or roles as U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Elijah Cummings and their colleagues. They served as the conscience of the party. But going forward, I believe Black Democrats must be the face of a more inclusive and diverse Democratic Party. I think one of the things that hamstrung President Obama is that, being the first Black president, he couldn’t be seen as overly pandering to Black interests — hence, he gets criticized for not having done enough for Black people. But the new Black (and Latino) leaders within the Democratic Party are talking about sustainable power sources, affordable health care, etc., things that benefit all citizens.

Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but I think my original premise that the Black vote delivered us from Donald Trump gives Black people a lot of political capital to demand action and tangible results from not only President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris but state and local legislatures throughout our Democracy!

Terrell A. Williams is a community activist. He lives in Middletown.