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In our offices here at the Defender, we have a photo hanging on the wall of Oscar DePriest. DePriest was the first African American elected to Chicago’s City Council and later became the first African American elected to Congress from a northern state. He

I’m still not sure what the difference is between a Democrat and Republican. For Black folks, it has been a difference without a distinction. Both parties take Black voters for granted: Democrats think they will always get the Black vote; Republicans think they will never get the Black vote. Because of that, neither party actively works for Black people.

While the Republicans were the party of virulent racist Jesse Helms, the Democrats are the party of former Klan member Robert Byrd. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.

This past Democratic presidential primary showed that some folks in the Democratic Party (like our last Democratic president) shrug when Blacks vote, and say, “Well, you know, Jesse Jackson did well here too.”

It also showed that John McCain has no strategy for appealing to the Black vote, considering it overwhelmingly in Barack Obama’s corner. He’ll talk to the NAACP and Black journalists, but he has no expectations of getting that vote.

This newspaper has a long history of supporting the best candidate for the job, regardless of party. In the 103 years it has been in existence, it supported many Republicans, including DePriest, and many Democrats. When Blacks abandoned the Republican Party (led by former Pittsburgh Courier Publisher Robert L. Vann who admonished Blacks to turn Abraham Lincoln’s picture to the wall) beginning in 1932, the Defender also was true to its readers.

It may become time to turn JFK’s picture to the wall (or is it Lyndon Johnson’s?). But it may not matter.

It has long been argued that Blacks’ allegiance to the Democratic Party is counterproductive. Some say Blacks should be in both political parties and exert influence on both. That is why any number of Blacks have joined the Republican Party. They are Republicans because they don’t want to be Democrats.

Some Blacks hew to the tenets espoused by the Grand Old Party%uFFFDconservatism, smaller government, lower taxes, strong military, etc. They are Republicans not because they aren’t Democrats, but because they are first Republicans.

Colin Powell is one of the highest-ranking Blacks ever in government. He and Condoleezza Rice are some of the brightest stars in the political firmament. Yet, Democrats treat them like Uncle Toms because they are Republican, as if that makes them unfit for office. I’d rather have either one of them than a third generation Kennedy, or a former first lady campaigning on her husband’s executive experience.

Micheal Steele is an able legislator and a fine politician. He is a Republican and Black folks were voting for a white Democrat rather than this intelligent, thoughtful, committed Black man just because he is a Republican.

Ken Blackwell was the only Black to be elected to a statewide position in Ohio. He ran for governor and got only a token Black vote. Blackwell has since gone off the deep end as a columnist who opines that Barack Obama may be the anti-Christ, but most Black voters didn’t know that. They only knew he was a Republican.

I have always been critical of the Congressional Black Caucus because it has been the Congressional Black Democratic Caucus putting party before race. When Republicans Ed Brooke and J.C. Watts were elected representatives in Congress, they were not members of the Congressional Black Caucus. For me, it diminished the credibility of the Caucus, even as it continued to grow because it became Democratic first and Black second.

The Hispanics have it right. They are seeking to become a force in both parties, and they are quickly growing the numbers that will make them hard for either party to ignore. John McCain will throw a little Spanish into his campaign speech (as George Bush did in his two elections), and you’d better believe Barack Obama is boning up on his accent. The Hispanic vote is in play because they don’t mind working with both parties.

Politics is much more complex than simply saying, “Democrats = good, Republicans = bad.” We have to make sure we are serving our interests and not just the interests of a political party because much too often, they are mutually exclusive. Black people might need to turn Lincoln’s photo around and recognize that Black talent can come from either side of the aisle, and we can make new aisles.

Lou Ransom is executive editor of the Chicago Defender. He can be reached via e-mail at lransom@chicagodefender.com.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Ransom Notes: Turn parties to the wall was originally published on chicagodefender.com

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