“Politics without economics is symbol without substance” – Minister Louis Farrakhan
August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. The landmark legislation outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S. But, 45 years after the legislation Blacks nor their vote have attained “Black Power”.
The 111th United States Congress consists of 541 elected officials from 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia. The Senate has 100 members and the House of Representatives has 435 members and six non-voting delegates. African Americans are at their peak in the national politics and total 42 Members – 9.5 percent of the House. Historically underrepresented in Congress, at 13 percent of the US population Blacks still remain unrepresented. Blacks proudly claim and defend Blacks who hold the four House Committee Chairmanships. But, compare that with the 45 seats Jewish Americans occupy in the House and Senate – 13 in the Senate and 32 in the House. Jews chair scores of the Senate and House committees and sub-committees that oversee every aspect of American affairs. Jewish Americans’ proportional representation in national representation dwarfs that of Blacks. The Senate has 13 Jewish Americans, one Hispanic (Bob Menendez, D-NJ) one Japanese American (Daniel Inouye, D-HI), one Native Hawaiian (Daniel Akaka, D-HI) and one African American, Roland Burris (D-IL).
About 2 percent of Americans identify themselves as Jewish, but their Congressional influence is four times that. The Jewish community wields vastly more power than any other ethnic or religious group. Most Jewish money goes to Democrats and most vote Democratic. But the Republican Party strongly supports Jewish interests. The House has one Jewish Republican, Virginia’s Eric Cantor. The Senate has two Republican Jews, 2 that are Independents and 9 Democrats. All of the Blacks currently in Congress are Democrats.
Can it be that the concept of “Power” is a state of mind Jews have that Blacks don’t? Collectives and unity of purpose are alien notions among Blacks. While Black American debate the merits and utility of Black institutions such as the NAACP; there is a conglomeration of Jewish efforts at work in the U.S., such as the B’nai B’rith community service organization, devoted to supporting the needs and interests of their communities. Jews have power in America Blacks don’t have because they have cohesion and a higher dedication to their people and purpose. Jews don’t as a rule go “mainstream” and leave their kind behind as assimilated Blacks have done. Jews have demonstratively more wealth than Blacks. They comprise eleven percent of the nation’s elite and are 20 percent of the leaders of important voluntary and public interest organizations, and more than 15 percent of the top-ranking civil servants. Jews definitely network and cooperate in ways Blacks don’t seem to comprehend.
The substance in Jews’ political power is economics. Close to half America’s billionaires are Jews. The chief executive officers of the three major television networks and the four largest film studios are Jews, as are the owners of the nation’s largest newspaper chain and the most influential single newspaper. Jewish Americans are more than 25 percent of journalists and publishers. By far the most uncompromising pro-Israel newspaper in the country is the chronicle of American business, the Wall Street Journal. Throughout history, Jews have played important roles in reforming or overthrowing regimes in which they have been unable to obtain their goals. In contemporary America, Jews have far more power in molding public and foreign policy than Blacks. When race-based issues come to the fore, not only Obama, but many American policy-makers run and hide. Isn’t it time Blacks took a page from the Jewish American Power playbook? Though Blacks are the most disenfranchised ethnic group in America, we still find no value in joining groups such as the Urban League and NAACP. Blacks have to rethink our reliance on partisan politics as a strategy to reach higher levels of clout. One way is to learn to work together like our Jewish friends do.
(William Reed is available for speaking engagements via BaileyGroup.org)