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Vote on substance, not style.

It's easy to view the nominees offered by the two major parties in this year's presidential election as nearly indistinguishable, mirror images fighting--one from the right, the other from the left--to claim the center. Al Gore vs. George W. Bush is not exactly a matchup designed to energize the African American electorate.

Yet, the drama of the 2000 presidential election is not in the players, but in the play. In the absence of candidates with forceful personalities such as Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the biggest mistake we can make is to allow apathy and complacency to dictate our level of involvement as citizens and as voters. Yes, it does matter who becomes the next resident of the White House--especially for African Americans. Consider:

When the next president is inaugurated next January, three of the U.S. Supreme Court's nine justices will be at least 70 years old. And in the high court's last session, nearly one-third of its resolutions were decided by one-vote margins. The next president will likely make appointments to the Supreme Court that will determine decisions on everything from abortion rights and police conduct to voting rights and affirmative action. You decide: Would you rather have Gore or Bush making those judicial appointments?

And what about cabinet appointments? Under President Clinton, we had the first presidential administration in which African Americans were not only included, but also appointed to positions of true power, including Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, and the late, great Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Which candidate will most likely continue Clinton's legacy of a cabinet "that looks like America?"

And the most important frontier for African American progress in the 21st Century remains economics--as is true for all Americans. For the first time in the history of the country, African American unemployment has dipped to single-digit levels, though it stubbornly remains twice that of the nation as a whole. During the past eight years, we've enjoyed the most robust period of economic growth in the history of this nation. Which candidate is most likely to sustain that growth, while making efforts to ensure that more African Americans, and particularly those bypassed during this period of prosperity, reap the benefits of future economic growth? Who is most likely to vigorously defend affirmative action as a means to combatting the effects of past and present discrimination against African Americans? Who is most likely to push policies spurring access to capital and business opportunities for black entrepreneurs? Who will be the most committed to closing the Digital Divide in both education and employment?

Once you get past the distractions of spin- and counter-spin-doctored media images and political special effects (the illusion of diversity at the Republican National Convention certainly deserves an Oscar nomination), it gets down to who is more likely to hurt us and who is more likely to help us. The question is not whether or not Bush or Gore are likable or interesting--we are choosing a president, not a potential dinner guest. The question is: what can they do for us? We must focus on the power of the office, not on the images of the would-be office holders. And we must do everything we can to entrust that power to the candidate most likely to protect our interests and advance our agenda.
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Title Annotation:factors to consider when electing president
Author:Graves, Earl G.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2000
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