By Jim Clingman
One of the post-election highlights for me was the meeting between Donald Trump and Bob Johnson. Billionaire to billionaire, Democrat to Republican, Black to White, businessman to businessman, capitalist to capitalist, meeting on a relatively even playing field to discuss some of the “what now issues” was intriguing to say the least. After the meeting, Mr. Johnson wrote a press release and did several interviews to disclose the particulars of that meeting.
Mr. Johnson graciously agreed to allow me to interview him. And during our nearly one-hour conversation he spoke openly about his political position vis-à-vis the election of Donald Trump, and his thoughts, recommendations, and reflections on a Black strategy moving forward. The following are excerpts from that interview:
Bob: I think when we talk about where Black American voters, and therefore where Black Americans are today, we have to look at it in terms of the politics of a divided nation; we have become stagnant. You have two parties, Republican and Democrat, who get re-elected each year in terms of congressional districts because of the way district lines are drawn, where both parties have safe districts, so there’s no likelihood of being defeated in most cases.
Bob: For a while we supported Republicans because of the role they played all the way back to the civil war and probably up to Richard Nixon we were a block in the Republican Party. That started to change with John F. Kennedy where we began to move closer to the Democratic Party, and since that time we pretty much have become locked-in as an appendage of the Democratic Party.
The long term problem with that is in a divided nation, where you are locked into one party in a two-party system, and you face a rising minority class that divides its vote across party lines, you ultimately will become marginalized in your voting power.
So the Black vote is going to be locked into the Democratic vote and therefore ignored by the Republicans; their argument is, ‘We can’t get them anyway so why try to contest for them, in fact ignore them or even actively oppose them.’
Bob: We are marginalized in our power, and as other minority groups increase, that marginalization becomes more significant. And so I’m taking the position that the election of Donald Trump basically created what I called a seismic shift in the political situation in the U.S., that we take stock now and see how we can redefine our role in this divided nation.
And I say it’s time that we return to the Congressional Black Caucus’ founding principle when those 13 members came together back in 1971: Enshrined in a philosophy and ideology by William Clay of Missouri, “Black people should have no permanent friends no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.”
And my position today is that we should begin to focus on our permanent interests and under that [the] rationale you talk to Trump, you to talk to the Democrats, but you talk to them from a vantage point of I’m not your friend, I’m not your enemy. I’m talking to you about my permanent interests and I will then vote and engage you accordingly. That is the essence of why I am where I am today.
Bob: It starts with taking the position that we have the ability to effect the outcome of elections. One obvious way is to concentrate on maximizing your voter turnout, which is critical in a democracy. There’s only two ways to change power in any country, either you do it through ballots or do it through bullets. Well, we aren’t going to do it through bullets in this country.
Bob: I think it’s time that we manifest that voting power by nominating and running our own candidates. And you, Jim, you and I are about the same age, you remember this when, when people, when organizations, political organizations, would run something called “Favorite Son”?
Jim: Right, yeah I do remember that.
Bob: We need to think about this in all elections – primaries and generals. We should run favorite sons, since we vote as a bloc anyway. Jesse Jackson did this when he ran at the Democratic convention in the Democratic Party. We should run a favorite son in the primary and we don’t have to run nationwide. We don’t have to file a candidate in Utah. We don’t have a file a candidate in Maine. But we do need to file a candidate, a favorite son candidate in the states where we have significant voting power.
Bob: So you run that candidate in those states and you get enough votes in the primary to be part of the discussion. If you want to run in the Democratic primary, you run in the Democratic primary. If you want to run in the Republican primary, you run in a Republican primary but you run as a favorite son party and you have a discussion or dialog there, where you’re not going to win in the two dominant parties, you already know that, so what do you do? You run again in the general in those same states.
Under that scenario it’s even likely that no one gets the requisite votes to give them the Electoral College, if you still have the Electoral College. Under that scenario it throws it into the House of Representatives. Whatever party has the majority, they will vote according to their party loyalty, but we will have demonstrated that our power is going be used to cause a change in the way presidents are elected. And pretty soon both parties will get the message.
… Continued next week