Why Bloomberg Deserves Third Term

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There is something everyone is whispering about in the 2009 mayoral race – it’s the Black vote.

The reasons for this are obvious.

In 2005, Michael Bloomberg, running for a second term on the Independence Party and Republican Party lines, polled 47% of the Black vote against the Democratic Party candidate. This time, with everyone anticipating that Bill Thompson will be the Democratic nominee, the question becomes how should the Black community align ourselves?

As part of the independent coalition that backs Bloomberg? Or as part of the Democratic coalition that backs a Black candidate, Bill Thompson?

I am supporting Mike Bloomberg. And I think voting for him is singularly the most powerful choice for the Black community. Bloomberg began his mayoralty as a Republican, but today he is an independent. His nonpartisan governance of New York City has reduced crime and racial polarization and improved schools.

He is not a miracle worker and I have had my disagreements with him – some of them highly publicized. But on the whole, social, economic and cultural life in New York has improved. He deserves a third term. When Newark Mayor Cory Booker endorsed Bloomberg’s re-election last week, he called him a model mayor.

But, the political question for us – as African Americans – goes well beyond the issue of one man’s record. It goes to the heart of our ongoing struggle for equality and empowerment.

You know where I stand on this issue. I am a Black independent. I believe that our political captivity to the Democratic Party is the single biggest factor which keeps us undereducated, underemployed, over-incarcerated and underdeveloped. And I have worked for many years to create new independent coalitions in which Black people can exercise power.

As a community, we’ve been on a path to political independence over the last eight years. And to paraphrase Al Pacino in Godfather III, just when we’ve begun to break free, we don’t want to get dragged back in.

In the 2001 contest for Mayor, a battle royal broke out in the Democratic Party runoff, when Mark Green’s campaign put out a divisive leaflet ridiculing Rev. Al Sharpton. Michael Bloomberg was elected by a margin of just 35,000 votes. I campaigned vigorously for his election, and there were two extraordinary features of that narrow win. His margin of victory – 60,000 votes – came on the Independence Party line. And he polled 25% of the Black vote. That coalition, a Black and independent alliance, became a new power source on the political scene.

In 2005, with the Independence Party and the Coalition of Outsiders urging African Americans to vote for Bloomberg, the Mayor was re-elected in a near landslide. Again, it was the Black and independent alliance that scored the victory, with 47% of Black voters supporting Bloomberg. One of every 10 votes cast for Bloomberg were on the Independence Party line – Column C. And one in every eight Black voters for Bloomberg voted for him as an independent. In central Harlem, more than 21% of Bloomberg’s total vote was cast on the IP line.

In this process, the Black community was establishing our political independence. And there is a direct link between achieving that independence and our ability to produce critical changes in public policy, including making the Mayor fully accountable for what is going on in the public schools and beginning to break down special interest control of education.

Voting for the best candidate – rather than voting along racial, ethnic, or partisan lines – is a sign of political maturity, of being political players, something we, as a people, have fought hard to achieve. When the vast majority of our Black elected officials (including Bill Thompson) endorsed Hillary Clinton rather than Barack Obama, they were telling us to stay inside the traditional political coalition. We overrode them, not because Obama is Black, but because he was the best candidate. We can’t be confused about that.

When 25% of the Black community rejected the Democratic Party in 2001, we were making the statement that race-based divide-and-conquer tactics are repugnant to us. When 47% of Black voters rejected the Democratic Party in 2005, we were insisting that nonpartisan leadership – not party loyalty – is best for the Black community. I feel that way more than ever, especially now that Barack Obama is President.

I have heard that some Black leaders are spreading the word that I’ve betrayed my principles to support Michael Bloomberg. You know me too well to believe that. I have been betrayed many times. But I never betray, even when I pay dearly for it.

They say I "flip-flopped" on term limits. Not so. I remain a supporter of term limits and disagree strongly with the Mayor’s methods. But I am not stupid. Term limits would never have been extended if Democratic members of the City Council had not voted for it. The Democratic Party had the power to prevent it, not me.

Some people ask why the Independence Party didn’t back Bill Thompson. We met with him, and while I respect him and think he is a caring individual, I do not support the partisan political tradition out of which he comes. We could find no common ground on the issues of nonpartisan political reform. And even more significantly, not one Democratic leader reached out to lobby for the Independence Party line on his behalf.

Let’s keep playing smart and powerful politics in 2009. As Obama said, we are the change we need. And our becoming more independent is the change we need. That’s why we empower ourselves by moving forward with the Black and Independent alliance and supporting Mike Bloomberg on the Independence line, Column C.

Dr. Fulani is a leading Black political independent, as well as a developmental psychologist and innovator in the field of supplemental education. She is a founder of the Independence Party of New York and holds monthly meetings in Harlem.

Post your comments online or please submit them to milton@blackstarnews.com

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