Conversations with Black Voters (And Non-Voters)
Many of you found this blog after learning about my six-month road trip through the so-called "red states," where I interviewed people about why they vote the way they do. The goal of the trip was to steer clear of politicians and talking heads and focus on talking to real people about a variety of issues. I still feel the media, both traditional and alternative, ignore the voices of average people. Many journalists and authors have a tendency to write long diatribes about the Bush administration and its horrible policies, but they rarely quote real people. On March 20, 2006, Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Evan Thomas wrote a piece called "The GOP's Abortion Anxiety," but they didn't include comments from pro-choice Republican voters who are actually leaving the party. Finding them isn't that difficult.
From now until the November election, I will feature interviews with a variety of people about a wide range of issues. Because I'm working on my book about my "red state" experience, I can't travel too far from the Bay Area, but I will make a point of interviewing a diverse group of people. I also plan to podcast the interviews. Conducting these interviews isn't always easy, especially when I encounter someone who is pro-war, anti-choice, anti-gay, etc...but I believe they will help the left figure out where to focus their efforts and how to shape their message.
Last weekend, I interviewed a number of people at Juneteenth, the largest gathering of African-Americans in northern California:
San Francisco Juneteenth has taken on even more importance because the traditional black neighborhoods in the Western Addition and Bayview/Hunters Point have lost population due to the increased ability of blacks to live throughout the region due to rising incomes, redevelopment which displaced some residents and businesses and an influx of new residents into those communities. San Francisco Juneteenth is the one constant which dates back to the days when the Western Addition covered 120 consecutive blocks of 100 percent African-American households.My first interview is with Ericka, a 32-year-old San Francisco resident who says she always votes. Democrats should pay close attention to her last comment about poverty.
What issues are important to you?
Issues concerning education and abortion. African American voting rights. Family and marriage. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
So you're against gay marriage?
Yes. It's my biblical beliefs and it tears down the basis of the family.
Do you vote for Democrats or Republicans?
I was a Democrat. Now I don't agree with a lot of what they support. I'm still registered as a Democrat, but I'm voting more with the Republican Party.
Because the value system is totally different with Democrats. They're more liberal. They're for abortion, which obviously is the murder of a baby. And they support gay marriage which is breaking down families. Since my values have changed, my voting habits have changed.
Did you vote for Bush in 2004?
Yes I did.
Do you think abortion and gay marriage should be political issues?
Definitely. I don't appreciate the fact that they're trying to teach kids that homosexuality is ok. It has to become political because how else can we stand against it?
You mentioned education earlier. What about issues like education and healthcare? Do you have health insurance?
What do you do for a living?
I'm an entrepreneur. I sell children's clothing.
The Republicans are often criticized for using gay marriage and abortion to get you to vote for them. Meantime, they refuse to raise minimum wage or work to make healthcare more affordable and accessible.
I don't vote according to party. I vote according to each individual issue. I don't care if they don't give me healthcare. I'll never support abortion. I have two children and in the past, I've had an abortion and I've asked for forgiveness for that. I don't think that should be ok for a 17-year-old.
Do you think the government should have made that choice for you?
Where does it stop in terms of the government telling you what you can and cannot do with your body?
It's not about the government telling you what to do. We vote. This is a democratic society. We vote for these measures.
Once the baby is born, should the government stay involved? If you're going to ban abortion, we're going to have a lot more unwanted children in this country. Who's going to take care of those kids? Who's going to pay for their healthcare and education?
The bible says there will always be poor people.
So gay marriage and abortion are your top issues and Republican policies on the economy and the poor don't matter?
I've lived in this community all my life under Democrats and Republicans. My neighbors have been living in poverty for years and nothing ever changes.