Blacks concerned Democratic Party will leave them behind
As the Democratic Party tries to regroup after its crushing presidential defeat in 1984, many blacks in the party say they are being pushed out of its mainstream. Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. has said that the Democratic Party has a basic mission to remain the nation's majority party. The general consensus among political observers is that Democrats must seek the white vote and move away from their emphasis on special interests.
Gov. Charles S. Robb of Virginia, for example, has said the party has paid too much attention to big labor, blacks, and feminists.
But black Democrats -- including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson -- say they are being sacrificed in the party's attempt to attract whites into the fold.
Democratic candidates have lost four of the past five presidential elections, although their party has held a majority in both houses of Congress most of the time. Currently Democrats are in the majority in the House and minority in the Senate.
Since Mr. Kirk was elected to head the DNC last February, the party has been retooling to build a new vehicle, one that can regain what was once the ``solid South'' -- which included blue-collar workers, farmers, and white liberals.
This policy is a rebuff to blacks who voted 90 percent Democratic in 1980 and '84, say blacks, basically Jackson followers. Only one white group, Jews, voted for Democrat Walter F. Mondale in 1984.
Blacks see the election of Illinois state comptroller Roland Burris to vice-chairman of the DNC as a ``first step'' to reduce the Rev. Mr. Jackson's influence. Mr. Burris defeated Mayor Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Ind. Mayor Hatcher was Jackson's campaign manager in the 1984 presidential primaries.
Foul, cried Jackson. Usually, the party has accepted the recommendation of its black caucus to fill one of its three national vice-chairmanships. Hatcher was the caucus's choice. But party officials pursuaded Burris to run against Hatcher, independent of the caucus.
As a result, Jackson has charged that the party wants to attract white males by ``proving they can get tough on blacks'' -- in this case, its black caucus.