Do White Americans Voters Matter?

Pre-Election Facebook Thought from March 2016

One of my goals for 2017 is to help people understand the importance of voter engagement vs “outreach.” Politically speaking, outreach implies extending what one has in legislative ideas beyond our usual demographic. Without the element of also extending services to those typically not benefitted, outreach is entirely didactic. Those to whom we are reaching out to are approached like students of our superior way of thinking and living. This movement of communication in one direction is a failed model. Engagement is a better model. Engagement implies a mutual exchange of ideas and an examination of services with opposing interests in mind. Listening, not just messaging is one of the key elements of voter engagement.

The errors of not listening are plentiful. Former President Obama staffer Van Jones, like many pundits, failed at listening. In a woeful, emotionally shocked post-election day outpouring, he implored us to agree that the election of Donald J. Trump was based in white American racism. The election wasn’t about a “whitelash” to 8 years of an Obama presidency. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia is another example of failure to connect with voters. He continues to operate as though voters unwilling to live within his weaponized race ideology are invisible voters. The 2017 Presidential race was about an ignored electorate screaming for attention. People like Lewis fail to connect unless part of a puppetry agenda.

People without a true voice will feel cornered. Cornered people will jump out at you.

People without a true voice will feel cornered. Cornered people will jump out at you. That Facebook meme, posted from a speech I made in 2015 was intended to have a very generalized message when most viewers took it to relate only to black Americans. WE the political class, have not fairly and properly engaged white Americans as much as any American. Hillary’s “Depolorables” can be generalized across race and class to mean anyone not part of the elite’s lockstep minion society.

Leo Smith and American “Deplorables” in 2016

While Hilary Clinton got caught in her elitism and disdain of working class Americans, the indifference of elitism is a non-partisan disease. Republicans too have their closed walls and manicured minds. Afterall, this is why the political upstart Donald Trump eliminated a flock of seasoned Republicans in the primary race. Economist Paul Krugman sounded an unpopular alarm in March 2016 opinion article that resulted in him being called a democratic party operative by Republicans. To many Americans, the cloistered club and managed message of the traditional Republican made them no different than Hillary Clinton and the American pain deaf progressive elites who supported hear.

In a 2016 interview with the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, I defended the rights of white Americans to have their voices heard. Let me be very clear. From the North Georgia Mountains to MLK DRIVE in Savannah, from Compton California to Wheeling West Virginia, voter engagement is transformative. Not just for elections, but for society. LISTENING to people, HEARING them, is an ancient healer that we have lost. There are repercussions for marginalizing ANY PEOPLE in America. And that includes white American people too. Everyone must be heard.

The end result of true voter engagement is better ideas and better services for the common betterment of all. The added value is more understanding and tolerance of difference. Our first and foremost responsibility is to engage and listen to the concerns of Americans. Engagement is not just a tool for elections. Voter engagement is a transformative tool for a better way, to better governance, and a better commonwealth.

This is a time of great reflection about inequality. We approach an inauguration after a bitter election about the values that make America a shining example. The poet Emma Lazarus of 1849-1887, a white American New Yorker of Jewish faith, inspired another poet and man of faith in The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Their shared vision and plea is summed up as none of us are free, until all of us are free. On Monday we will celebrate the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ending that same week, we will begin the contributions of President Elect Donald J. Trump. May God bless us all.

Join me for an Engagement Inauguration Luncheon in our nation’s capitol on January 20th.