Monday, May 07, 2007

Black Women Voters Mobilizing in 2008

Black women across America are meeting, mobilizing and empowering themselves as a critical voting bloc for the 2008 presidential election.

Three prominent civil rights organizations -- the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, headed by Melanie L. Campbell; the National Council of Negro Women, chaired by veteran women's and civil rights leader Dr. Dorothy I. Height, the A. Philip Randolph Institute, led by Clayola Brown -- met in Washington D.C. and created the Power of the Sister Vote 2008 to lead a national debate about black women, the political process and the 2008 presidential election.

"Black women represent over 56 percent of the registered black electorate. In the 2004 presidential election, black women represented 58 percent of the total black vote," Campbell said in a statement. "Our voices weigh heavily in our family's civic engagement decisions."

The Sister Vote 2008 meeting represents the first in a series to draw attention to black women and young voters. More than 30 national and state-based black women leaders and opinion makers attending a session last month where they were briefed on the 2008 Republican and Democratic National Committee political process.

Donna Brazile, a Democratic political consultant, said according to the 2004 Census Bureau, black women's registration and turnout rates were 67.9 percent and 59.8 percent, both higher than the overall population figures (65.9 percent and 58.3 percent); according to the exit polls in 2004, black women were 7 percent of all voters.

"Black women are in a key position to help shape the debate and outcome of the 2008 presidential race," Brazile told last week.

The group was briefed by aides for several presidential candidates, including Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Issues discussed during the three-hour meeting included economic disparity, full funding for health care, support for affirmative action, immigration policy, access to quality education and the expected impact of the black women's vote during the 2008 elections.

"We told the attending presidential campaigns that the women's group will actively monitor the policy statements and promises made by each presidential contender," Campbell said. "Our goal is to educate and to inform. An element of our strategy includes the release of a report delineating each candidate's position on issues having an impact upon black women's lives."

According to the group’s statement, "while invitations to attend the dialogue were extended to both major political parties, only the Democratic National Committee (DNC) elected to send representation."

"Questions were raised in the invitation to each committee about convention planning. The Republican National Committee respectfully declined, citing that it was too early in their planning process to provide concrete information about their convention, slated for Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN."

Amaya Smith, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said it appears Republicans do not take black women seriously.

"African-American women will play a key role in this next election, yet Republicans are already writing them off," Smith told "Democrats' early commitment shows that we are not taking any vote or voter for granted. It’s too bad that Republicans have already discounted them."

Black women, much like the black community, are not a monolithic group and will likely be divided on who to support. Some will support Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and others will vote for Obama or one of the other Democratic candidates, while some registered Republicans will support the GOP nominee.

Some black female Democrats say they remain loyal to the Clintons, adding that Hillary Clinton would make a fine president; but they also like Obama’s message and want to support a black man running for the White House. Some say Obama’s wife, Michelle, a formidable lawyer, can help attract black women -- and women of color -- to Obama’s campaign.

In fact, Michelle Obama recently created a new initiative, Women for Obama, to generate support among women and undercut Clinton’s plans to aggressively reach out to women. Several national polls show Clinton leading Obama among women voters.

"Women for Obama will forcefully and enthusiastically engage women, enlist women and empower women to recognize the difference our candidate can make in the "08 race and the world -- and the difference we as women can make for our futures," according to a satement from Michelle Obama on her husband’s website.

Last month, Women for Obama raised about $750,000 during its first fundraising lunch in downtown Chicago, attended by about 1,200 women.
"The reality is that my husband is a man who understands my struggle and the challenges facing women and families," Michelle Obama told the audience. "He actually listens to me and has the utmost respect for my perspective and my life experience."
She added that Barack Obama "recognizes that our society, our community is only as strong as our women and our families."

Aides to Obama call Michelle, 43, "the most important adviser" to the campaign, and friends say she will be one of Barack Obama’s most significant surrogates, having traveled already to Los Angeles, New York and Iowa. She plans to visit New Hampshire Monday.

"Michelle's role on the campaign is primarily, of course, as a wife and mother, and when on the road, she considers herself a surrogate ear -- to meet and listen to Americans she meets on the road and hear their concerns with and hopes for the country," Katie McCormick Lelyveld, communications director for Michelle Obama, told

According to Newsweek, "Michelle's community ties came in handy when Barack, by then a state senator, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. He faced a primary dominated by some of the Democratic Party's most formidable political families. Barack won the nod, thanks to the support of influential African-American business leaders, some of whom had closer ties to Michelle than they did to him."

"She's smart, she's successful and she's well-liked and popular," Avis LaVelle, former national press secretary to Bill Clinton, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Long before there was a Barack Obama, there was a Michelle Robinson, who was a star in her own right.''

Obama supporter Rosemary Jackson and her sister, Erma Gray Davis, said the fact that Barack and Michelle Obama have launched the women's initiative shows they recognize how much power women wield, both in their families and in politics.

Note: story from Black American Web.

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