Recent conversations with many of my Jamaican counter parts have left me a little disappointed with how our community has drawn to one political party. What has happened to choices like when we were in Jamaica? What I have found most disturbing is the notion that many of us has bought into that if you are an immigrant or some of color you must vote for the Democrats regardless of who is on the ticket or your values.
Why is this so disturbing? Well, I remember growing up in Jamaica, where in many cases people would change party based on issues. Yes, there were some diehard JLP and PNP people, but for the most part you looked at the issues and voted.
Enter America. The Democrat party is said to be the party for people of color and immigrants. The Republicans are the party that hates people of color and immigrants. We have bought into this and now cast our votes regardless of our values or candidate credentials or even looking at the history of both parties and their vision. It would seem to me that this is perfect for the Democrats, as they have these votes in the bag and have no need to spend money court this vote. All they have to do is look at the voter registration and see who the designated party is. It also seems perfect for the Republicans as there is no need to spend money on votes they assume they never will get. Now what does that gain Jamaican Americans, or for that matter, people of color…no leverage? We cannot demand anything from either side because they both have presuppositions of our votes.
What is even more surprising is how the popular views and values that most Jamaicans hold, such anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, pro-business, pro Christianity and pro-individual responsibility are not a factor when evaluating political candidates or parties. The choice is already made. The all important swing vote belongs to other groups who do not show their cards like we have already done. They have power and leverage to get policies passed that are favorable to their group or nation of birth.
Jamaican immigrants have been viewed as a part of the Black American g (aka African American*) group . We have not done anything to differentiate ourselves so as to have a greater impact on policy, even though some of our issues are much different from Black American vote. If the estimates are correct, there are over a million Jamaican-Americans who can vote. Is this not enough for a swing vote?
It is a sad fact but registered independents have more leverage….
*Note: I use this term sparingly, as if the term was used in its true sense, Theresa Heinz-Kerry could potentional be the first African American first lady.