Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rise Up Hip Hop Nation: 2012 Voter Resource Guide


Unlike most voter guides, this “resource guide” does not advocate candidates or positions, but instead ideas, critical thinking and important video and article resources to review to get a well-rounded understanding of the social construction of politics and reality.


We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is. – James Baldwin from The Fire Next Time

This is probably one of my favorite quotations…and I believe one of the most insightful words ever written. James Baldwin understood this country better than most ever will. He knew what most still have not accepted: until all Americans accept our history, this country is doomed for self destruction (from white delusion and black disillusion).

James Baldwin clearly understood that the system of reality most white Americans function in has never meshed with historical reality.[1] This system of reality is at a crossroads and this election will reveal the next trajectory in the journey.[2]


The presidential election is almost over…thank God. Many variables may affect the results - including some that were not expected. The east coast is still trying to recover from a devastating storm and much of the nation’s focus is rightly on supporting that recovery highlighting the best of our humanity. But on the political side, we see some of the worst aspects of our humanity, our most cynical tendencies. Efforts to misinform, suppress and intimidate voters are ratcheting up. Reports of armies of poll watchers and election machine irregularity raise questions about the legitimacy of the actual result we do get. But despite all the possible variables, Obama will probably win….but I think it will be close. I think we may have reached an historical tipping point.



Folks may think this election is about the economy...but this country's economic fate was sealed a long time ago...around the time that globalization took stronghold. If Romney wins, it will not be because of the will be because of RACE. This is slated to possibly be the most racially polarized election in history.[3][4] Gender will be an important factor as well, but not as much as it could have been if race was not THE factor.[5]

The Real 47%

As much play as the video of Romney dismissing 47% of this country got, there has been little discussion of the other 47%....the 47% that will NEVER vote for Obama because of his race. He could walk on water and turn water into wine, and they still would not embrace him. Of course, their disdain will remain veiled in coded language like ‘socialist’ ‘big government spender’, ‘Muslim’ etc., but what you can read behind all those words is the same[6]

In some ways it feels like we are back to the Civil War era with sharp racial lines by geographic regions and polling data reveals this demographic reality.  Among working class whites, the breakdown by region = Midwest +8 Obama (manufacturing/union factor), West +8 Romney, NE +4 Romney, and the South  +40 for Romney breakdown. According to political scientist Prof. Frederick Harris, it is this racial reality that has allowed Obama to ignore the social and political needs of African Americans and has silenced African American criticism of said abandonment.[7]  It is true that many African Americans avoid discussing race in the Obama era…most notably, Obama (and purposely I would argue).



So how will Obama win with this motivated majority against him?

I think his margin of victory will be smaller in blue states (loss of some white support). I believe his margin of defeat in red states may be much bigger (motivation of more whites to vote against him). It is entirely possible that he may lose the popular vote, and win the electoral vote.

His ability to win swing states depends on GOTV efforts. If enough women vote and he’s able to have a net + gender gap, he will win in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and possibly Colorado and Virginia. If the percentage of Latinos voting is higher than 2008, he will win Nevada and possibly Colorado and Florida because of it.  If he does not get a net + in turnout for these demographic groups, he could lose any and all of the swing states based on the net – race variable.


My Prediction: The Electoral Map                                  



"Media does not reflect reality, it defines it"... The corporate media blackout of the many presidential candidates not from the two-party corporate system serves as a constant reminder that democracy still does not exist in this society. Maybe one day we will actually know ALL the people listed on our ballots that are running for office. That day we will be able to say we live in a democracy. But that does not mean we will live in a progressive society. That will take much more time. Equality of opportunity does not equal equality of condition. Yes, the message and the messenger matter, but so does the recipient...context is everything...and in electoral politics, the context = constituent groups with polar interests.[8]

While many may choose to vote strategically in a flawed system, voting one’s conscious and one’s interest makes perfect sense always. I personally understand why folks do not want to vote for “the lesser of two evils” or a corporatist candidate in red or blue stripes. While I personally don’t agree with the stance to “not vote”, I can even understand that some people are so disenchanted with the system they don’t see how their votes in a national level election affect their daily reality. Lupe Fiasco got a lot of heat recently for stating that while he engages in local elections, he would not be voting in the presidential election. After learning that one of his major inspirations for his latest work was James Baldwin, I had a better understanding of where he was coming from….Lupe understands the burden of reality…Lupe is a realist.

But in hip hop, we also have progressive visionaries. The vision and groundwork to one day achieve a new reality of social equality must be done now and always. In electoral politics, independent (third party) political parties play an important role in that effort.  Hip Hop journalist Davey D penned an important article that challenges the idea that voting for a third party candidate spoils elections.[9]  Shamako Noble of Hip Hop Congress and the Green Party makes a very strong case that Hip Hop and the Green Party share similar visions and needs, and he provides concrete examples of how progressive movement from the relationship has already manifested.[10] Shamako shows that there is no reason to choose either/or; we must embrace a both/and strategy to community organizing and electoral politics. We need visionaries to reach a higher moral plateau. Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary, and who knows where this country would be today without his leadership and service. For hip hop, we need visionaries like Shamako. He knows what work must be done today to achieve a better tomorrow.



While I always vote, and analyzing politics is occupational for me, electoral politics is not my primary strategic focus. I believe the only path to freedom is self determination. I follow Carter G. Woodson’s model of service over leadership to achieve community empowerment as laid out in his seminal work Miseducation of the Negro.  For me, organization and localization formulate the best strategy to combat the systemic oppression most people on the planet face daily.

That is not to say national politics does not matter to me. It does, but not for the reasons often debated. Politicians, by definition, are professional liars. They must tell people what they want to hear to gain their support. That system is inherently flawed. But within the system, there is room for true public servants that truly want to serve the public good; and a society as large and complex as this one desperately needs good public servants. Unfortunately due to the corporatization of the system (money in politics), most of our national representatives (in Congress and the White House) are now politicians and not public servants. Until we remove money from politics, this will remain the case.

But I still vote. Aspects of local, state, and even the national election matter to different aspects of my identity.  As a women, reproductive rights and Supreme Court nominations matter. As a social scientist, platforms that recognize that validity of research, data, and science matter. As a public employee & organized labor union member under attack, voting to protect my right to collectively bargain matters. As a community college professor, voting to protect public education matters. And for me personally as I stated in 2008, as an African American, rattling white supremacists like Rush Limbaugh was change enough for me to believe in…lol. I usually vote my union’s platform (which usually aligns with the Democratic Party), although in some cases I will vote for Green and/or Peace and Freedom Party as well. In California, that is often possible.


“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” - Frederick Douglass

This is my other favorite quotation…I cite it often in my writing and recite it often in my classes.

For me this year’s presidential election is not about any of my personal reasons I listed above. While I believe Obama will win, I also believe Obama needs to win for more important historical implications. This nation’s entire history is a racialized one, and the national psyche has still not come to grips with its original sin. For this nation to have the best chance to finally address the question of the color line and progress, an Obama win is necessary.

If Romney wins (or Obama for that matter), black disillusion will not change. I know that Douglass speaks the truth when he says that power concedes nothing without a demand. My hope is that we as a people will resist, but my fear is that our endurance for oppression is great, and if anything our endurance has increased not decreased…and instead of resist, we will continue to endure as we have been.

However, if Obama wins AGAIN, white delusion of their supremacy will face yet another reality check, and as we have seen in the last four years, many white Americans will revolt. A second Civil War may ensue; it may stay safely in the Republican Party, or it may spill out to the streets of Arizona, or a courtroom in FL when the Trayvon Martin case begins. But there will be sparks to inflame the Fire Next Time….and for this country to truly move FORWARD, these sparks will prove necessary.  Like James Baldwin and Lupe Fiasco, I am a realist above all, and believe that MANY in this country are not ready for TRUE progressive leadership and will not be for a very long time because as Baldwin correctly understood, many Americans have not accepted history yet. Most (not all) people of color accepted this historical reality a long time ago …we had no choice.  But no progress can be made until everyone has no choice. Everyone must be forced to accept history or this country is doomed for destruction. Either way, we will know which one is more likely on November 7th.

We cannot be free until they are free – James Baldwin from The Fire Next Time

“If we do not dare everything, the
fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is
upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No More water, the fire next time!” – James Baldwin



[1] MUST VIEW VIDEO: 1965 Oxford Debate between James Baldwin and William Buckley (the father of modern conservatism).  James Baldwin segment = 14:15-38:15 (24 minutes)
[2] Read my latest essay titled: 2012: A Year of Reckoning, Awakening, or Both?  Link =
[3] Read related article: a. How does race shape the vote? link =
[5] White men will overwhelmingly support Romney which will balance out some of the gains Obama has with getting majority of women’s vote. Also, there is a decent % of white women voting race over gender. WATCH Video: Gloria Steinem on Politics Nation. Link =
Also READ article Why frightened white men love Mitt Romney. Link =
[6] MUST see video: Ohio Romney Rally - Interviews with Supporters. Link =
**note the title play off of James Baldwin’s book The Price of the Ticket
[8] I wrote an essay in 2009 titled: DisUnited States of America: The Red, White, Blue...and above all Green. Link =
[10] Read article: Jared Ball and Rosa Clemente Were Right by Shamako Noble. Link =