The following are excerpts from a speech delivered at the Campaign for America’s Future – Take Back America Conference, June 2, in Washington.

We have a president who talks like a populist and governs for the privileged. We were promised compassionate conservatism; instead we got crony capitalism. We have an attorney general who’s a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell. And we have a Senate majority leader who has voted consistently against labor rights, against civil rights, against women’s rights, and he’s the one who replaced the bad guy. …

The election this fall is a contest between two widely disparate views of who we are and what we believe. One view wants us to march backward through history, surrendering control of government to special interests, weakening democracy, giving religion veto over science, curtailing civil liberties, despoiling the environment. The other view promises expanded democracy and giving the people, not the plutocrats, control over their government. …

So the stakes are high, higher than ever in recent memory, the consequences of loss almost too dire to bear. African Americans are our nation’s largest racial minority and will remain so in the future. Their centrality to victory in 2004 can’t be overlooked and it can’t be left to last-minute afterthoughts or early November drive-by politics.

We have to ensure that every citizen registers and votes, and guarantee the irregularity, suppression, nullification, outright theft of Black votes that happened on Election Day 2000 never, never, never, never, ever happens again. These votes can be a reward for advancing justice or a punishment for a betrayal. …

The only demographic groups that cast a unified vote were Blacks, Latinos, Jews, union members, residents of large cities, all of whom voted 60 percent or more for Gore, and white males, who voted 60 percent for Bush. We know these divisions, for the most part, have deepened since the last election, so this divide pretty much tells us where we must begin. We can begin to close the divisions that separate us if we can bring cyberspace and city sidewalk together, if we can tell the evil empire, “Move out or we’ll move on all over you.”

Now, as any long-suffering Red Sox fan ought to know, your team won’t win if you don’t touch the bases or if you run too far outside the base path. You can’t win this race by ignoring race. In the 50th anniversary year of Brown we have a chance to become the first nation in human history to wholly assimilate a racially distinct former slave class. We know that if whites and nonwhites vote in the same percentages as they did in 2000, President Bush will be re-defeated by 3 million votes.

And we know that Blacks are increasingly angry about the economy and the war. A recent poll in six key states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Michigan and Nevada – found that 73 percent of Blacks believe Iraq is not worth fighting for, and a whopping 77 percent believed Bush intentionally misled the nation about the war. These are voters ready to turn anger into action, to work for a regime change here at home. But they have to be asked. They have to be registered. They have to be organized. They have to be mobilized.

And not just by the welcome new organizations with big treasuries; we have to use existing grassroots organizations that have a track record, that have earned and won their community’s trust. And we have to be ready for a repetition of the systematic attempts to intimidate minority voters that have been the hallmark of Republican Party campaign efforts for at least 40 years. If we want to count on these voters we have to assure them that their votes will count.

African Americans have always worshipped at the altar of the American ideal, believing deeply in participatory democracy. Together with likeminded minorities and likeminded whites we can, in the words of poet Langston Hughes …, “Let America be America again, let it be the dream it used to be, let it be the pioneer on the plain seeking a home where he himself is free. Oh, let my land be a land where liberty is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, but opportunity is real and life is free.

Equality is in the air we breathe. Oh yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me and yet I swear this oath. America will be.”

Julian Bond is chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The complete text of this speech is available at www.ourfuture.org/projects/national_conference/2004/agenda.cfm.

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