Thursday, October 16, 2014

Black Voters in Ferguson Turn Against the Democratic Party

By Leah Barkoukis

It’s been two months since Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson, and while protests continue, some in the African American community are now channeling their anger into political action—and not for the usual party.

“Just because they’ve got the D next to their name, that don’t mean nothing,” Darren Seals told the Washington Post. “The world is watching us right now. It’s time to send a message of our power.”

Many African Americans in Ferguson and across St. Louis County, angered over their leaders’ response to the fatal shooting, say they will be taking their outrage to the ballot box and voting against a Democratic Party that has long been their automatic choice.

They are focusing on the St. Louis county executive’s race, which typically centers on matters such as the budget and sanitation but this year has become caught up in the unrest.

Earlier this month, a coalition of some 20 African American Democratic leaders called a news conference to endorse the GOP candidate, state Rep. Rick Stream. Armed with voter registration forms, activists like Seals have been roaming black neighborhoods urging people to vote for anyone but the Democrat.

The plan is not only to beat back a local candidate they view as particularly unfriendly to black residents, but also to present a show of force to Democratic leaders all the way up to Sen. Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon. By switching their allegiance in this election, these African Americans hope to demonstrate that their votes should not be taken for granted.

“This is about the total disrespect white Democrats have demonstrated against the black community,” Ted Hoskins, mayor of nearby Berkeley, told the Post. “This time, we are going to show them.”

But putting a Republican in the St. Louis county executive’s position will be an uphill battle, to be sure. After all, a member of the GOP has not held the position in 25 years.