WASHINGTON WATCH: Can We Build A Black & Brown Coalition Or Will We Face Off Against Each Other For Political Office (VIDEO)

The election was just three weeks ago and many are still basking in the afterglow. But what about one critical issue concerning African-Americans and Hispanics not just simply as a voting coalition. What about the changing demographics where we see African-Americans and Hispanics facing each other in congressional races and other races?

Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss this and more.

MR. MARTIN: Folks, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

The election was three weeks ago. Folks are still basking in the afterglow, if you will, but what about a critical issue? And that is African-Americans and Hispanics not just simply as a voting coalition. What about the changing demographics where you’re going to see African-Americans and Hispanics facing each other in congressional races and other races?

Joining us right now is Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher.

Cornell, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”

MR. CORNELL BELCHER: Thanks for having me.

MR. MARTIN: Mark Veasey —

MR. BELCHER: I’m still basking in the glow – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN: — yes. Yes, we can tell.

MR. BELCHER: [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN: Mark Veasey wins a congressional race in Texas. He faced, in the Democratic primary, Domingo García, a former Dallas city councilman. African-American-Hispanic. It was very interesting. You had Hispanics who were endorsing Veasey. You had blacks who were endorsing Domingo García. Obviously, there was a Dallas-Ft. Worth thing there as well.

If you look at Compton, California: 75 percent Hispanic. We are seeing these changing demographics in these districts.

MR. BELCHER: Right. Rangel’s district – that old-time –

MR. MARTIN: Same thing – Harlem.

MR. BELCHER: — yeah, Harlem.

MR. MARTIN: So, walk us through what this is potentially going to look like and how it might change, if you will, the face of black politics in Congress and the shifting of power. There’s going to be some uneasiness here.

MR. BELCHER: Well, it’s li- – uneasy. And I’m going to say something that’s really unpopular, Roland, and – and my – and my friends in the – in the CBC and Hispanic Caucus aren’t going to like it.


MR. BELCHER: But here’s what I’m going to say. The – the gerrymandering that has taken place in this country is – is undermining the voice of black and brown people. It is. You know, going back to what – what was meant in the – in the civil rights legislation for the – some of these districts, it was important at that time, but I think we[’ve] got to start looking about – looking at it as are we, in fact, increasing our voice in politics in this country by having these – these 70, 80 percent black or brown districts? Or, are we smothering our voice?

Look –

MR. MARTIN: A- — and ho- — hold on. For our audience, for folks who don’t – don’t live this stuff all day, we talk about “gerrymandering.” That’s simply the redrawing of the districts.

MR. BELCHER: — right.

MR. MARTIN: And what we are seeing is we’re seeing efforts to, frankly, pack as many people of color in one district and, therefore, limiting their influence in others.


MR. MARTIN: And even we saw in Texas where five seats were added. That was largely fueled by Hispanic growth, and the GOP said, “Oh, cool!”

MR. BELCHER: [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN: “We’re gonna write five, new, Republican districts!’

MR. BELCHER: Exactly! [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN: And Hispanics said, “Wait a minute!”

MR. BELCHER: [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN: “What are you doing?”

MR. BELCHER: Right. Exactly. Texas isn’t growing whiter, but they – [chuckles] – have more districts! That’s what – but that’s the fundamental problem. And, I think, too – too often – and I know I’mma get – you know, look. I – I’mma catch hell for this, Roland, but –

MR. MARTIN: It’s all good.

MR. BELCHER: — too often –

MR. MARTIN: I gotcha back.

MR. BELCHER: — but too often, our legislators go along with this ’cause they – ’cause it – it encapsulates their power – or – or, it puts a wall up arou- — around their power.

MR. MARTIN: So – so, what you’re saying is, as opposed to looking at this as “let’s protect a black district,” “let’s protect a Hispanic district” –


MR. MARTIN: — what you’re saying is that, no, you’re actually losing your level of influence –

MR. BELCHER: That’s right.

MR. MARTIN: — because you’re about that one person, as opposed to the –

MR. BELCHER: You’re pa- —

MR. MARTIN: — broader issue.

MR. BELCHER: — you’re pack- — you’re packing them all into — -to one district in a way that undermines thei- — their voice. Look. Don’t pack – you know, spread – you know, if these districts were drawn in a way where – and it would be – benefit the Republican Party, too – where we could make more districts competitive. You know, one of the problems with – with Congress, why we didn’t turn over Congress this time around is because the vast majority of these members of Congress don’t even have a race because the districts have been drawn to – to their specifics in such a way that they don’t even have a race for –

MR. MARTIN: Well, obviously. First of all, that’s part of the re- — problem you have with politicians redrawing districts –


MR. MARTIN: — because, frankly –

MR. BELCHER: [Chuckles.] Yes.

MR. MARTIN: — they want to aid their party in power –

MR. MARTIN: Yeah, right.

MR. MARTIN: — as opposed to individuals.

But – but this is o- — the – the broader issue we have here also is that this trickles down to school boards and –


MR. MARTIN: — who – and – and, you know, police chiefs and fire chiefs and city councils.

Do you believe there really needs to be high-level meetings among black and Hispanic business leaders, political leaders, education leaders, civil rights leaders to say, “Look, this ain’t about us competing. We have the ability, if we work together” –

MR. BELCHER: That’s right.

MR. MARTIN: — “to really take on some significant power, as opposed to allowing them to put us against one another”?

MR. BELCHER: Right. And – and the Obama example at the top – the top of the ticket is the perfect example for this. Look – and – and you’ve got members that can compete in any district. I – look, I believe our – our – sort of our black and brown members can compete in – in any district, ’cause I – because, like Howard Dean said, I think we put our values out there against their values. I think our valu- — our values win.

You know, our – are we – are we throwing away two or three competitive districts by making one district not competitive at all? That’s the question we should be asking. But the problem is are you going to ask – you know, you do have to bring your business leaders. You do have to bring in people from – from the states to be a part of this conversation, ’cause power never gives up power without a little push.

MR. MARTIN: Of course.

MR. BELCHER: And your st- — and your state of Texas is a perfect example of this. Texas is a state that, arguably, along with Florida, should be – you know, encapsulates sort of what the – what’s changing in America, but that political power change starts at the state level. And it’s not going to start at the state level if we – we’re, in fact, smothering our – our voices, as aspo- — as opposed expanding our voice.

MR. MARTIN: Last question for you. When Howard Dean was chair of the DNC – the Democratic National Committee – he talked about a 50-state strategy –


MR. MARTIN: — as opposed to focusing on presidential and congressional elections. In some ways, the party has shifted ba- — away from that to the focus on presidential and congressional elections. Is it smart politics for the DNC to say, “Look, we[’d] better be looking at [a] 50-state strategy”? Because, when you look at voter suppression laws that were all passed after the 2010 election – that was because legislatures –

MR. BELCHER: Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN: — flipped. Many – 16 from Dem to GOP. GOP leads in terms of the number of governors as well. So, you can focus on f- — you know, national elections, but a lot of the things that are impacting people are happening at the state level, and those people are elected on the local level –

MR. BELCHER: ’S right.

MR. MARTIN: — as well. You need infrastructure –


MR. MARTIN: — in those states.

MR. BELCHER: It – it tri- — it trickles up. It’s – it’s Republicanism in reverse.

Look. The – the – Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, as you know, was – was attacked; but in the end, even the attackers said it – it was smart. And I would argue that – that we – and I was Dean’s pollster at the DNC. And I would argue that, in – in the Obama campaign, we took a lot of, sort of, that – that philosophy on expanding the – the map and putting money in places that Democrats typically did not do[?]. I mean we – we registered almost 2 million more – more new voters this ti- — in the last presidential le- — election. That’s part of, sort of, that Howard Dean sort of strategy of expanding the lap [sic] and putting mo- — putting more money in those states.

We absolutely have to do that. I think you’re going to see a – an effort from the Democratic Party to – to sort of double – they won’t call it the “50-state strategy,” of course, but – but the double down on a lot of those strategies and the philosophies of “let’s organize neighbor to neighbor, community to community” in some of these – in some of these states, and particularly in some of these red states.

In a state like Georgia – your state’s Texas, but the other state is Georgia. If we do what we need to do – be doing in Georgia, with the way the demographics are changing in Georgia, Georgia should be a – become a purple state.

MR. MARTIN: Now, when you say “demographics” – and, again, for our audience, most folks don’t realize some – I’ve seen some reports [that] upwards of 800,000 to a million unregistered African-Americans, but also Georgia has an expanding and growing Hispanic population.

MR. BELCHER: That’s right.

MR. MARTIN: So, when you put those two together –


MR. MARTIN: — and you talk about Texas, there’re 2.1 million unregistered, yet qualified-to-vote Hispanics.


MR. MARTIN: That’s huge – but you have to have the resources and –

MR. BELCHER: Put that money –

MR. MARTIN: — and –

MR. BELCHER: — there.

MR. MARTIN: — and the focus two, three, four years to build that up so it then –

MR. BELCHER: Right. But the –

MR. MARTIN: — ca- — can – [crosstalk].

MR. BELCHER: — but the main problem is Democrats get outspent, I mean, ’cause we can’t compete with Karl Rove. So, we can’t be outspent 5 to 1 in – in sort of – in campaign spending on these states and do some of these things. Citizens United is a decision that continues to haunt us and undermine democracy.

MR. MARTIN: All right. Well, Cornell, we certainly appreciate you breaking it down, and so we’ll see if that black and brown coalition and folks actually sit down at the table of brotherhood and say –

MR. BELCHER: We – we ha- –

MR. MARTIN: — “We need to” –

MR. BELCHER: — we –

MR. MARTIN: — “stick together.”

MR. BELCHER: — have to. [Chuckles.]