Do black candidates matter to North Carolina Democrats? | Citizen | Indy Week

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Do black candidates matter to North Carolina Democrats?

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First, let me be clear that my purpose is not to say whether Democrats should vote for or against Roy Cooper for governor or Deborah Ross for U.S. Senate in the primaries next March.

I do, however, want to note that each of these worthy white candidates, both odds-on favorites to win their respective nominations, has a serious primary opponent who is African-American. And I'll bet you can't name either one. That, to me, represents—in a state where almost half the registered Democrats are African-Americans—a complete systems failure.

Five African-American candidates, in fact, are running in Democratic primaries for statewide office, including one for labor commissioner and two for lieutenant governor. It's possible, though, that none of them will win, and that the Democratic slate next November—candidates for nine offices from governor to auditor—will all be white.

Again, I'm not telling you that any of the black candidates merits your support. One or more might. As a group, they're not strong, frankly.

But consigning them to obscurity six months before the vote, as the party establishment seems intent on doing, while treating favored white candidates as inevitable, is more than unfair. It's myopic.

It's unfair because in 2016, to coin a phrase, Black Candidates Matter. They matter for the same reason Black Lives Matter, which is that the black experience in this country is profoundly worse than the white experience, and the Democratic Party must strive to understand both. That means black leadership must be cultivated.

Nor will it do to let the money from special interests and wealthy donors dominate primary races, money that inevitably skews white for obvious, historic reasons.

But forget what's fair. Let's deal with the myopia. To win North Carolina in 2016—or 2018 or 2020—Democrats will need the same turnout of black voters as occurred in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama was running. But, starting next year, no Obama.

All the more reason, then, to put the black candidates who are running, for governor and Senate especially, on stage and online against their white opponents in a series of debates that give them, if not an equal chance to win, at least a reasonable opportunity to reach the voters. That's the establishment's job.

Show black candidates some respect and watch the number and quality of black candidates explode in future campaigns.

And then watch black turnout soar.

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