Filed Under:  Local

NAACP’s Select to Elect Initiative aims to change politics

28th November 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Fritz Esker
Contributing Writer

Voter alienation and dissatisfaction has been a theme in American politics for long before the recent presidential election that pitted Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. CNN released a report stating the voter turnout was at its lowest in 20 years. But some local activists are trying to encourage voters to become more engaged in the process 365 days a year. The NAACP’s Select to Elect initiative is one such program.

“It is a process by which we are going to give the power of the vote back to the people,” said W.C. Johnson, former co-chair of the political action committee of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP.

As described by Johnson, the Select to Elect initiative is an ambitious grassroots effort. The hope is to go block-by-block in New Orleans to organize neighborhoods. From there, precincts and wards become organized. The goal would be to promote community engagement year-round for volunteering, meetings, and other projects that would benefit the community.

Through this process, neighbors would get to know each other better. As they learn more about each other, they would learn both who is best suited to run for a certain office, as well as who would want to run for that position. The group would then support the nomination of that candidate.

Johnson hopes this level of community engagement will break the power political action groups have over the democratic process. He said that whoever has the most money to pay for an endorsement gets it, regardless of that person’s qualifications.

“None of that trickles back down to the neighborhoods and the communities,” said Johnson. “They (political action groups) are only interested in seeking political power for themselves.”

While focusing on individual neighborhoods might seem small in the face of an impending Trump presidency, Johnson said change has to start at the neighborhood level. If neighborhoods band together, then it can spread to an entire city. From one city, it could spread to another and another, influencing politics on the national level.

“All politics is local,” Johnson said, referring to the quote commonly attributed to former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

The Select to Elect initiative has already had an influence in local politics. Johnson said Louisiana State Rep. Joseph Bouie was chosen as a candidate through the system.

While Select to Elect has already had some success, the obstacles to affecting change in politics are substantial. The current system favors either people who have lots of money or people who can raise lots of money (or both). Media outlets like NPR and The Huffington Post reported that it costs in the neighborhood of $1 billion to run for president, a number expected to only climb for the 2020 presidential election.

“What good is a democracy if you have to raise a billion dollars to run for the highest office?” Johnson asked.

Johnson is willing to help anyone who wants to get more involved find an outlet. He said if any community member wants to become active with the Select to Elect initiative, he/she can call him at (504) 251-2201.

A request for comment from Morris Reed, president of the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP, was not returned at press time.

This article originally published in the November 28, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.