Minority voters leaving the fold
As the winter chill descends on Portland, members of the state Democratic Party, fresh from a hard-won gubernatorial victory over their Republican opponents, will cozy up Friday with Gov.-elect Ted 'Bowl with me' Kulongoski for an evening of 'food, fun and friendship.'
The idea, according to party officials, is to recognize volunteers, supporters and anyone else who helped Oregon Democrats fight back against what Neel Pender, the party's executive director, called the 'Republican myth on tax cuts.'
So if you have a penchant for DJ-spun rock 'n' roll and good times, go to the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, 721 N.W. 10th Ave., and frolic with the party faithful.
I don't know what the menu is, but I have a suggestion: A bucket of fried chicken, collard greens, yams and neck bones marinated with black-eyed peas would do. This would send a message of change.
The mixture of Southern culinary delicacies may increase some bellies and raise cholesterol numbers, but it might also shrink the number of folks who, like me, wish the Democratic leaders could put tangible actions behind their glad-handing inclusionary rhetoric.
Clearly, Democrats need to seize this opportunity to burnish their image by honoring blacks and other minority groups whose votes for the party have been as certain as the rain in Oregon. It's time to illustrate the Democratic 'value' that no good deed goes unsung.
I say this because a good percentage of the above demographic groups are bailing out of the so-called 'inclusive tent.' The reason, I am told by black Democratic leaders, is that blacks and minorities feel ostracized from the party-control machinery and the power that goes with it.
Pender contends that the party's lack of diversity in the top echelon is not by design. 'We have to take individual responsibility here and step up and participate,' he says.
But those I have spoken with talked about abandonment and a lack of support and motivation. They say that in every election cycle, some white liberals ride their high horse through these communities and are never heard from again after the election.
Apparently, things are getting dicey now because blacks are demanding a piece of the power pie not just in Oregon but across the nation. Their message from the Nov. 5 election was simple: Don't take our votes for granted.
Less than 20 percent of registered black voters in Multnomah County voted in the last election.
Last summer, when I wrote about young blacks tilting toward conservative ideology and the Republican Party (Political romance has been one-sided, Insight, Aug. 20), many white liberals unleashed a venomous tirade. Well, it is not by happenstance that Republicans narrowly lost the gubernatorial race.
Nor is it coincidence that well-respected black Democratic leaders such as state Sen. Avel Gordly gave their support to Republican Gordon Smith in the U.S. Senate race.
Democrats for too long have been content in the knowledge that minorities, blacks in particular, would always be in their house. But it's becoming clear that those long-term tenants are increasingly discontented.