May 5, 2004
The Democratic Party has long been the party for people of color. But leaders of racial and ethnic minorities are beginning to wonder if Sen. John Kerry understands just how important this electorate is.
In a recent New York Times article, national leaders of the African-American and Latino communities said Kerry's campaign "lacks diversity and is failing to appeal directly to minority voters."
With African-Americans making up more than 12 percent of the U.S. population and Latinos more than 13 percent, Kerry must not take this electorate for granted. It accounts for one out of every four people.
Kerry needs to realize he faces a demographic revolution that demands respect. His staff must acknowledge and address this growing group if he hopes to achieve any political success.
To believe that people of color, especially Latinos and African-Americans, will vote for Kerry simply because they might not like President Bush would be foolish. Young voters of this new wave of color seek to be more than just taken for granted. They want to be full partners. And many new black and brown entrepreneurs see themselves as major players in the free market, and they don't want to be disrespected in the political arena.
Failing to see this will hurt the Democrats. And failing to create a clear and concise message for these communities invites division, criticism and defeat.
The Democratic Party is aware of the political implications of not addressing issues of concern to communities of color. Former California Gov. Gray Davis, for example, supported the effort to give undocumented people drivers' licenses.
On the other hand, when Bush placed Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Education Rod Paige and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in key positions in his administration, he seemed to show a willingness to share power with people of color. This stand is a clear indication of GOP political savvy.
But Kerry and his campaign appear to not get it. They need to have a message for communities of color that indicates a vision and future for us.
When one talks the talk of justice, one must also walk the walk.
Robert Miranda is one of six elected members on the Milwaukee Social Development Commission, which oversees social-service distribution to more than 150,000 citizens of Milwaukee, including shelter services, youth services, Head Start and food services. Miranda also helps craft the policy of Wisconsin's largest anti-poverty agencies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.