WASHINGTON WATCH: What’s The Ask, What Should We Demand From Politicians? (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH: What’s The Ask, What Should We Demand From Politicians? (VIDEO)

Polls show that a vast majority of African-Americans will cast their vote for Pres. Barack Obama in November, just as African-Americans did in 2008. In fact, he got about 96 percent of the Black vote in 2008, which was even higher than Al Gore’s 92 percent, that he got in 2000.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold him accountable for addressing the needs that are particular to our communities — and that’s not just the President. It’s any politician who wants our vote. People who’re running for Congress, governors, state reps, state senators, county commissioners, city council, DAs, police chiefs — I mean everybody who’s running for office — sheriff — you name it — they all should be speaking to our agenda. So, we want to know, “What’s the ask?”

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

Polls show that a vast majority of African-Americans will cast their vote for Pres. Barack Obama in November, just as African-Americans did in 2008.  In fact, he got about 96 percent of the Black vote in 2008, which was even higher than Al Gore’s 92 percent, that he got in 2000.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold him accountable for addressing the needs that are particular to our communities – and that’s not just the President.  It’s any politician who wants our vote.  People who’re running for Congress, governors, state reps, state senators, county commissioners, city council, DAs, police chiefs – I mean everybody who’s running for office – sheriff – you name it – they all should be speaking to our agenda.  So, we want to know, “What’s the ask?”

Joining us to talk about it [are] Gary Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum; and Hilary Shelton, Senior Vice President of Advocacy for the NAACP.

Gentlemen, [I’m] certainly glad you are on the show.

MR. GARY FLOWERS:  Thank you.

MR. HILARY SHELTON:  It’s good to –

MR. MARTIN:  Whenever –

MR. SHELTON:  — be here.

MR. MARTIN:  — it’s very interesting.  When I bring up this issue, Black folks go, “We shouldn’t talk about that, because it’s a lot of the stuff the brutha gotta deal with.  We don’t wanna make it even more difficult.  Let’s wait for a second term.”  And I make the point that, wait a minute.  Latinos make it per- — perfectly clear what their agenda is.  [The] LGBT community made it perfectly clear what their agenda is.  They criticized the President.  He got heckled at a fundraiser, but still said, “We’ll support you, but address our agenda.”

What has happened when African-Americans say, “Don’t say anything.  Don’t bring up anything.  We shouldn’t even ask for anything, because it might hurt the Black president”?  To me —

OFF CAMERA:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — that’s detrimental to our agenda.

MR. FLOWERS:  Roland, I think Stevie Wonder was right.  When you believe in things that you don’t understand, you suffer from superstition, and a lot of Black voters are just superstitious about voting.  So, it’s like, “Oh, we can’t say anything.”  They confuse criticism with critique.  Those of us who are policy analysts can look at a given policy and say it either speaks to our interests, or it doesn’t.  That is a critique, separate and opposed from a personal criticism.

MR. SHELTON:  Well – and I totally agree.  Look, we – we’ve been around too long to fall for anybody who just ha- — looks like us.  We’ve see what happens when we allow that to happen.  Look, even sitting now – if you’re looking for an example, just look at the Supreme Court.  We’ve got somebody who looks like us that has voted against every interest that our African-American community’s ever had, and he’s a sitting, lifetime Supreme Court justice.

But look at what’s going on here.  The NAACP has always sent questionnaires to anyone that seeks the highest office in the land.  When Barack Obama was running for President the first time, we sent him the questionnaire, along with all the other Democrats and the Republicans, too.  And even now, anybody seeking federal office, we have a federal candidates questionnaire that speaks to our issues.

One of the challenges we’re seeing now – a good example is what’s happened with the Republicans, since the Democrats aren’t doing a primary.  We know who the Democratic nominee –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SHELTON:  — is, going in.  It’s the President of the United States.  We appreciate that.  It always works that way.  But – [unintelligible] – when we look at the Republicans, they’ve been asking each other the questions so people can see where the candidates stand.  The biggest problem is they’re not asking the questions that speak to our communities and our real interests –

MR. MARTIN:  A- — and –

MR. SHELTON:  — and concerns.

MR. MARTIN:  — and I[’ve] got to raise this point because I keep telling people this is going to be a tight election.  I also believe that we should be having an ask for Mitt Romney, for Republicans who’re running –

MR. FLOWERS:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — because if they win, we’re still constituents of theirs.  We don’t just somehow go away for four years.  And so from your respective groups, when it comes to the presidential race for Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney, then also some of the broader – some of the other races, what are your top three issues?  What are you asking for?  What are you asking for them to address?

MR. FLOWERS:  Within the Black Leadership Forum, we have 51 national organizations.  [The] NAACP is one of those 51.  We ask based on our need.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. FLOWERS:  So, the Congressional Black Caucus, through Congressman Conyers, is asking for a full employment legislation from Congress.  Everyone who’s willing to work should have a job –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MR. FLOWERS:  — and we tax Wall Street to create the fund to create these jobs.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MR. FLOWERS:  The women’s organizations – National Council of Negro Women, the National Congress of Black Women – are asking for equal opportunity for women.  That is a need.  Rainbow/PUSH and NAACP and the National Urban League are asking for fairness in foreclosures.  We have people who are upside down in their houses.  Banks’ profits are at [an] all-time high.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. FLOWERS:  Individual bonuses – all-time high.  Yet, people are in the street.

MR. SHELTON:  Listen, every demographic in our country – if you speak to any political science professor, they’ll tell you you vote your economic interests.  And when we look, going back, and African-Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, coming out of slavery, going through the Reconstruction period, because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.  He fr- — he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He supported our economic interests of not being a slave.

Today, as we talk to the same issues, we’re speaking of what’s going on here.  Gary’s right about those issues, but the criminal justice system is still a problem for us.  We still know that, for some reason, they’re trying to fill those jail cells.  Even if you see private industry – private prison industry – actually cutting deals with states to take over the industry, privatize it; but they have to guarantee 90 percent full – fill rates –

MR. MARTIN:  Now –

MR. SHELTON:  — in those jail cells.

MR. MARTIN:  — now –

MR. SHELTON:  So – so, our position has to be to those kinds –

MR. MARTIN:  — now, I know –

MR. SHELTON:  — of issues as well.

MR. MARTIN:  — one of the previous issues you had was that – and the President did sign this into law, where they reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine –

MR. SHELTON:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1, but I would think one of the issues is to say, “Okay, fine.  Now let’s make it” – “Since it’s 18 to 1, make it 1 to 1.”

MR. SHELTON:  We have to finish it, quite frankly.  As a matter of fact, my good friend Congressman Bobby Scott, that helped us move that bill through the House, said, “We went from a lot of racism to just a little racism, but it’s still racism.”  So, we still have to deal with those issues as well.  So, you’re absolutely right.  We’ve got to address those concerns.

We have big concerns around things like “stand your ground” as we talk about Trayvon Martin.  What we have now are laws set in place in 24 states that make it easy to provoke and then use deadly force –

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MR. SHELTON:  — against those that you provoke, as we saw happen in the Trayvon Martin case.

I want to address the whole restructuring –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SHELTON:  — of the criminal justice system that drains so many resources out of our communities, including our young men and women.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, again, we’re going to continue this “What’s the Ask?” because I think it is important for us, again, to make perfectly clear that when people are coming to you saying, “Vote for me again,” “Vote for me” as – even as a first time, we should be saying, like Maynard Jackson said in Randall Robinson’s The Debt, when he talked about, “Look, here are our interests” –

MR. SHELTON:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — and asked every politician, “Where do you stand on this issue?”  Everybody else does it, of the Democrats, of the Republicans; Whites, Blacks, Hispanics.  They all do it.  African-Americans should be saying the exact, same thing.  So –

MR. FLOWERS:  Amen.

MR. SHELTON:  Roland, if – if – people should go to the NAACP’s website.  We have just sent out to both the Democrat and Republican candidate for President a 40-page questionnaire, asking them where they stand on the issues that are priority –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MR. SHELTON:  — to the African-American community as filtered through the NAACP’s –

MR. MARTIN:  What’s the –

MR. SHELTON:  — process.

MR. MARTIN:  — website?

MR. SHELTON:  It’s www.naacp.org –

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

MR. SHELTON:  — naacp.org.

MR. MARTIN:  Hilary and Gary, thanks a bunch.

Folks, you can tell us what your thoughts are on “What’s the Ask?” by logging on to tvone.tv/ask.

Now, here are some comments already posted.  From BlackBusinessAdvocate, “Without access to capital, blacks will never have an opportunity to elevate our people.  The President can take steps to ensure that when the next New Market Tax Credit offering is given in 2013, black businesses receive funding.”

From Garland Pack, “I would like for the President to end the War on Drugs.  This war is a farce, and the only thing that it has been effective in doing is incarcerating young Black men disproportionately to Whites.”