Rep. Marcia Fudge and Rep. Charles Rangel address voting and how to keep Black voters going to the polls without President Obama on the ballot.
MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): Another panel at the National Action Network convention addresses voting and how to keep black voters going to the polls without President Obama on the ballot.
[PANEL ON VOTING.]
REP. MARCIA L. FUDGE: And what we know is it is important for us to continue to vote. We know President Obama is not going to be on the ballot next year, and there are people in this very room who are not going to go and vote. I guarantee it.
Everybody that is going to promise me you’re going to vote next year, raise your hand.
[HANDS GO UP ALL AROUND THE ROOM.]
REP. FUDGE: Let me tell you what. When we are mobilized – when we are mobilized, we really do make a difference. So, we have to make sure that we don’t forget our history. If you remember back as far as 1986, when Jesse Jackson first ran for President, because we registered so many black people, we changed the face of the Congress of the United States. We did it when Bill Clinton was in the White House. We did it with this president. But then after the President was elected in 2010, we went to sleep, and we lost everything. All the things we had gained, we lost.
So, we can’t afford to let that happen. And don’t just vote for the president. You have to start to vote for your city councils and your boards of education – [applause] – and your – all of the people – your judges. I never could understand who wouldn’t vote for judges when we cross judges’ paths more than any other group of people in this country. [Applause.]
Let’s start doing what is right for us. Do what is right for your family. Do what is going to make a difference in your neighborhood.
So, I’m just going to say to you this time in 2012, we actually closed the gap between the numbers of minorities and non-minorities who voted. Next time, let’s not just close the gap. Let’s just beat it. Let’s just beat it – [applause] – so that we can make sure that we have the kind of communities and the kind of country we need.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL: I feel a movement going on right now that I haven’t felt in years, and I hope all of you just remember where you are, what time you are and what this mean to you and your children and your grandchildren in years to come.
In the early ’60s, I was asked by Percy Sutton to join with Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lewis and Ambassador Young to do the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. I had bad feet, wasn’t thinking about marching no 54 miles – [audience laughter] – but they told me that they were taking a lot of pictures. So, I went down there, lookin’ – [laughter] – I got dressed up and went down there.
It started to rain, and these poor folks started putting plastic around their feet, and they started moving into the darkness. I had a roundtrip ticket to Idlewild to get back to Harlem, but I felt that I’d walk a couple of blocks with these people before I left. I had no idea there were no blocks at that time in Selma!
REP. RANGEL: And I found myself in the woods with a whole lot of people singing a whole lot of songs, with my Florsheim shoes, my cashmere coat – [laughter] – and my shades.
REP. RANGEL: I want you to know at that time, I cussed every step of the way – [laughter] – from Selma to Montgomery. And the reason I did is because I had no idea that the Voting Rights Act, that the Civil Rights Act were dependent on the success of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
And I truly believe that some of us here – we should not allow this moment to pass us by. The Republican Party is on a self-destructive mission.
[SOUNDS OF AGREEMENT FROM THE AUDIENCE.]
REP. RANGEL: When we got rid of the Dixiecrats, they joined the Republican Party. When we had moderate Republicans in the State of New York, they chased them out. And when they attack President Obama, it’s because they know that he’s the symbol of what Democrats have stood for, what religious leaders have stood for: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, taking care of our young, getting kids educated in our country. [Applause.]
Anytime they are prepared to destroy their country to keep their base, they know that they are going out of business! They have had their last presidential campaign as we know it. [Cheers, applause.] So, they’re doing two things: stop people who don’t look like them from coming into the country, don’t let those who got in vote, and those people who think like we do – do all you can do in the state level to prevent them from getting to the polls.
This is our victory. Reverend Sharpton has been ready to deal with the small problems. They have grown to be local problems, state problems, national problems. And now he has the international influence to make certain that God didn’t just snatch away Dr. Martin Luther King and [leave] us out here by ourselves. We have the power in our hands to take advantage of the fact – that body when I marched had four black members. When I got there, there were 13, and now my chairlady chairs over 42 African-Americans!
REP. RANGEL: So, for us here, we have just begun.
MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER): But not everyone was as hopeful as Congressman Rangel.
MR. PATRICK GASPARD: The thing that frustrates me about us is our reactive nature. I come out of organized labor, and I remember – you know, I see activists in this room like Cecile Richards, like Bertha Lewis, who’ve been active in unions. I remember when I first came into the union movement, unions represented about 30 percent of the workforce in this country. Now it’s down to single digits, and that’s mostly happened, I think, not only because horrible things are being done by really bad people on the other side, but because our side got incredibly reactive. Look what just happened in Michigan. We were in a national election. Unions get rolled in a state where they have incredible density, like Michigan.
I worry that the Civil Rights Movement, the voting rights movement is becoming far too reactive. We know all the horrible measures they tried to enact. Let’s ask ourselves what we’re going to do to get on offense. Let’s not just talk about this as if it’s an esoteric thing. Right now, today, there are states where we’ve got governor’s mansions that are controlled by Democrats. We’ve got some legislatures, like in New York, that are controlled by Democrats. Let’s put pressure, accountability and some transparency into our organizing in those states, try to expand access and use those as models to scale up in some of the battleground states, where Republicans are on the ascendant.
So, I think, you know, this conversation is all well and good; but there are some things that we can be doing right now, today, in a very targeted fashion to turn this dynamic around.
So, thank you, Rev.