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African-Americans ponder where to place votes.

This November's presidential election marks the first time since the 1960s that neither political party has openly courted the votes of African-Americans. The general sentiment of black voters has been that neither incumbent President George Bush nor Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton adequately addresses the critical concerns of the black community. Political experts say that the candidates' indifference has many black voters still searching for a candidate to support.

Several factors have contributed to the candidates remaining neutral toward the black community. Ed Brown, executive director of the Atlanta-based Voter Education Project, says that black voters have been maligned as a special-interest group. Addressing their concerns might be seen as "pandering."

"It's not fashionable to talk about problems in the African-American community," Brown says. "There is a fear of [white] backlash and a loss of suburban voters."

Brown also contends that black politicians and voters have sat by, passively allowing themselves to be cast as a special-interest group. "Voters haven't put many demands before the candidates. And the black political leadership feels raising the issues will incur the wrath of the larger community," he says.

Others argue that blacks haven't been courted because black Americans have the same concerns as white Americans. The issues of jobs, education and health care cut across racial lines.

Both President Bush and Gov. Clinton are wooing the nation's more than 14 million unemployed workers with proposals to create more jobs. Bush has proposed a $5,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, which he maintains will create 272,500 new jobs. And he wants an across-the-board tax cut to free up more capital and create more jobs.

Gov. Clinton has proposed spending $20 billion a year for four years to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and create new jobs. He offers tax cuts 'for private investment and long-term business research, and a modest tax cutfor middle-income families.

Ed Brown says neither proposal addresses the income gap between white and black workers. He says the candidates must offer "something that affects the social and economic problems that disenfranchise African-Americans."

On education, Bush has focused on a voucher system that would give parents roughly $1,000 to spend on the school of their choice. Clinton opposes that plan, partly because the teachers unions that support him oppose it. His counter proposal includes Head Start programs for all eligible children; retraining for displaced military and defense workers; and restoration of some college student loan programs.

The Clinton education plan has been better received among blacks. Critics say Bush's plan would give a tax break to wealthy parents who send their children to private schools.

Bush's health plan hinges on tax credits of up to $3,750 for poor people and tax credits for middle-class families to purchase health insurance. Clinton proposes a national health plan for all Americans financed through payroll taxes or other means. Both measures have been sharply criticized.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been much discussion about these critical issues. Voters have been left to form their opinions based on one party's criticism of the other.

Fred Brown, chairman of the National Black Republican Council, says "Blacks can no longer be a one-party people. We give votes to the Democrats and get nothing in return."

Clinton campaign senior advisor Ernest G. Green counters, saying, "The issues that Gov. Clinton is talking about concerning health care, housing, education and job training will provide significant help to African-American communities." Green also says that Clinton's record of appointments of blacks in Arkansas and the kinds of people that he has sought advice from suggest that he could help create a positive change in race relations in America.

Alexis Herman, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, says African-Americans will vote Democratic because they have more at stake in this election.

"Blacks have been hardest hit by the policies of the Reagan-Bush administration over the past 12 years," says Herman. "We have more to gain from change and new direction."

David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says, "[Black voters] worried about their jobs will probably vote Democratic." He also says there are many black Democrats running for new congressional and legislative seats; this will bring voters out and give Democrats an edge.

Thaddeus Garrett Jr., senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, concedes that Republicans must work harder for the black vote. "The Republican Party has done a poor job on its image in the black community," he says. "Republicans need to target certain areas and certain income groups and take to the community the message that we are on top of the issues of racism, education and jobs."

--Ingrid Sturgis and

Matthew S. Scott
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:1992 presidential elections
Author:Scott, Matthew S.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:781
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