MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – In the state where the 2000 presidential election was stolen, NAACP delegates cheered calls to oust George W. Bush from office “and send him back to Crawford, Texas” in next year’s election.
In his July 13 keynote to the civil rights organization’s 94th annual convention at the Miami Beach Convention Center, NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond blasted Bush for dragging the nation into war, for tax and economic policies that reward the rich and punish the poor, and for his frontal attack on civil rights.
“The Bush Brothers are big on preemption,” Bond said. “First Gov. Jeb Bush became the only governor to carry out a preemptive strike on affirmative action and then President George Bush carried out a preemptive strike on Iraq, the only president in our nation’s history to attack a country which did not threaten or attack us first. Both strikes were unnecessary and unwise.”
Racist bias remains deeply embedded in U.S. society, he said. An estimated 12 percent of Black men ages 20 to 34 are incarcerated compared with 1.6 percent of white men. College-educated Black and Hispanic men earn 30 percent less than white men with similar education.
“Into this mass of economic inequality marches the president for the rich,” Bond said, assailing Bush’s trillions in tax cuts “not just to further enrich the already wealthy, but also to starve and bleed the government, making it unable to meet human needs, signing a death warrant for social programs for decades and decades to come.”
Recalling that Jeb Bush hired a Republican-connected firm, ChoicePoint, to purge 94,000 mostly African American voters from the Florida rolls in 2000, Bond commented, “This was truly a weapon of mass voting rights destruction.”
Nevertheless, African Americans increased their total vote by two million in 2000, he said, noting that “more than a million African Americans voted here in Florida accounting for 15 percent of the total, a state record.”
If Hispanics, Blacks and whites turn out in 2004 in the same percentages as they did in 2000, “the no-show National Guardsman in the White House and his draft-avoiding vice president will lose by three million votes,” Bond said. “That’s why voter registration and voter turnout must be a top priority for every [NAACP] branch and every state conference from now to Election Day. The countdown starts now. If a branch isn’t registering voters and isn’t preparing for a grassroots turnout program next year, it isn’t doing its job.”
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “You are what you do,” Bond told the delegates, “What you do between now and Election Day next year will decide who you are and will decide what kind of world we live in.”
The next day, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume also blasted Bush, saying, “We find it peculiar that President Bush can travel across the ocean to meet with legitimate Black leaders in Africa yet cannot meet with legitimate Black leaders right here at home.” As the crowd roared, he warned Bush, “You will never be president of all the people as long as you only want to deal with some of the people.” Mfume also criticized Democratic presidential candidates who did not attend the NAACP’s candidate forum.
Those who did attend joined in denouncing Bush’s lies on Iraq as well as the cost of the occupation. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who voted against the war resolution, suggested there are grounds to impeach Bush.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said it was important “for people like me” not just to come before the NAACP to talk about racism, but “to talk to white people all around America about racism.”
Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun said quality public education for every child would top her priorities. African Americans have been excluded from “ownership and wealth,” she charged. “We need to invest in ways that create opportunity across the board. We need to provide public sector employment at the end of the day for the long-term unemployed.”
In the crowd were members of many unions in the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Bert Boca, a delegate from Massachusetts who was staffing the UNITE table in the exhibition hall, said, “The trade union movement and the civil rights movement are two movements with one goal. Those who have the most in common with the NAACP are workers, low-income people.”
Larry Bowman, a delegate from Saginaw, Mich., and a United Auto Workers member, said Black workers have been decimated by the loss of two million industrial jobs. “We are losing through job attrition. People who retire are not being replaced even though the contract calls for them to be replaced. The corporations have decided they are not going to replace them.”
“Elections are always crucial,” Bowman said. “We just need to come together to do what we all need not just what a few need.”
Tim Wheeler can be reached at email@example.com. Debbie Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org