The NAACP's 'year of the ballot'
In targeting 1982 as the ''year of the ballot,'' the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is recognizing that further black economic and social progress will be to a large extent linked to what happens in voting booths this November - and indeed in elections in general during the months and years of the 1980s. At the same time, the NAACP is helping to shore up the one area - the political arena - where black successes have been especially pronounced since the crucial civil rights legislative victories of the mid-1960s.
It is not unexpected, of course, that voices heard at this week's 73rd annual convention of the NAACP - meeting in Boston - are highly critical of the Reagan administration. Blacks, after all, gave 82 percent of their vote in 1980 to Jimmy Carter, just as four years earlier they gave a similar 82 percent to Mr. Carter. The disaffection with the current administration, however, goes beyond the traditional allegiance to the Democratic Party that has existed since 1932. Blacks have been hit especially hard by recession.
Yet it is that very economic situation that seems to dictate both the challenge and the great opportunity for blacks. The task will be to fashion a long-range electoral strategy that maximizes the current influence of blacks within the Democratic Party, while also finding alliances within and even beyond the larger two-party system.
That means achieving ways of being heard - and yes, running candidates - within the Republican Party. It also means registering more blacks and getting them out to vote. In percentage terms, more blacks voted in 1980 than in 1976. Yet the percentage in 1980 was only 51 percent, compared to 57 percent back in 1964.
To tie future black electoral gains to one party would be to risk losing much of the progress at the ballot box that blacks have made in past years. Why is that? Well, just to look at voting results: during the generation from 1952 to the present, Republican administrations have held the White House for over 17 years, compared to 12 years for Democratic administrations. Conceivably, Democrats could win the White House back in 1984. But that may not be the case at all.
While strengthening their own position as a voting group - something that most ''minorities'' have done throughout American history - blacks have an opportunity to broaden their electoral concerns to embrace other groups. Such as Hispanics - who, demographic studies indicate, will replace blacks as the largest minority in the US by the early 1990s - and also lower- and middle-income whites, who often share many of the same economic difficulties faced by blacks. The task will be to make the black electorate such a force for constructive change that administrations will have to take cognizance of black views no matter what their affiliation. And, given the congressional extension of the Voting Rights Act this month, blacks are in a position to do just that.
Finally, the NAACP convention is taking up a broad range of economic and social issues that transcend politics. Such as employment in the motion picture industry. Blacks and high technology. Ties to the third world.
These workshop sessions underscore the impressive gains made by blacks regarding jobs, higher education, businesses, and politics. The ultimate goal, of course, remains an America where all of its citizens fully participate in the political and economic spectrum without regard to race or national origin. About that there cannot and must not be any compromise.