Ballot or Bullet Re-Loaded

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We’ll send Spitzer to Albany with a mandate for reform. We’ll send Spitzer to Albany with our vote shouting “we won’t be taken for granted and we'll be watching you."


(Writer says Malcolm's speech provides enduring lessons).
If you’ve never heard or read the Ballot or the Bullet Speech that Malcolm X delivered in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3rd, 1964 you owe it to yourself to do so.

Here are excerpts: “If we don't do something real soon, I think you'll have to agree that we're going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It isn't that time is running out -- time has run out!� These 22 million victims are waking up. Their eyes are coming open. They're beginning to see what they used to only look at. They're becoming politically mature. They are realizing that there are new political trends from coast to coast. It's got to be the ballot or the bullet.�

His words are as timely today as they were in 1964, because once again, after being lulled to sleep, we “victims are waking up�. This is evidenced by the fact that 47% of  the African-American vote in last November’s mayoral election was cast for Michael Bloomberg the Republican/Independent. Among other things this sent a message to the Democratic Party that we cannot and will not be taken for granted.  Now you might think that this “Bloomberg Revolution� would have served as a wake up call for the Democratic Party machine, and some may argue that it indeed did, but let me share with you what it looked like from where I sat, wide awake, at the nominating convention of New York’s third largest party, the Independence Party last June. 

That day, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, Hillary Clinton, Jeanine Piro and Alan Hevesi, received the Independence Party’s endorsement.  For those who are unaware, New York, and a handful of other states allow “fusion� through which candidates can run on multiple party lines.  A great example of this is the 2001 mayoral election in which Mark Green would have beaten Bloomberg if only the votes cast on the Republican and Democratic lines were counted.  Bloomberg’s victory was the direct result of the votes he received on the Independence Party line.  

Following their acceptance speeches, each candidate spoke to the press.  The topic of every interview was the controversial Dr. Lenora Fulani and her association with the Independence Party.  Spitzer, Piro and Hevesi (Paterson and Clinton were not present) all stated they accepted the line with the understanding that Fulani would be removed from a leadership problem in the party.  I thought it was telling that Democrats and Republicans would openly speak of influencing the workings of the Independence Party.  Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Dr. Fulani and over 100 members of the NYC Independence party we’re being “dis-enrolled� – in other words, thrown out of the party altogether. 

Fortunately, this sort of thing is illegal in a democratic society and I had the pleasure of being present and wide awake in several court rooms as prudent judges rendered decisions that thwarted this criminal action by Spitzer’s friends in the upstate portion of the Independence Party. 

It’s obvious to me and just about everyone else that Eliot Spitzer is going to be the next governor of the State of New York.  Indeed, that’s all over but the shouting.  However, who is doing the shouting and what they’ll be shouting will have less to do with Spitzer winning than with how he wins.  What do I mean by that? Spitzer and David Paterson are running on the Democratic Party line and the Independence Party line – Column "C" on the ballot.  So voters get to choose how they vote.  

If you vote for Spitzer on the Democratic line (Column "B") or choose not to vote at all you are giving him a blank check and can expect business as usual. If you vote for him on Column "C" it's like sending him a telegram that says we’re wide awake and see through what Malcolm referred to in his speech as “the camouflage, trickery, treachery and window dressing�. We’ll send Spitzer to Albany fully aware that we don't want a partisan Governor.  We’ll send Spitzer to Albany with a mandate for reform.  We’ll send Spitzer to Albany with our vote shouting “we won’t be taken for granted and we'll be watching you."

So get your hands on a copy of Malcolm’s speech.  Read it and talk about it with your friends and family until you own it.  Then do whatever it takes to get the “Spitzer on C� vote out in record numbers on November 7th. Rather than wasting our political power, let’s use it to our advantage.  Because on November 7 - Election Day-if we vote “Spitzer on C� the Ballot Is The Bullet!

Keith McHenry is a member of the Coalition of Outsiders.

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