New wave of black politicians emerges with Reagan, Republican victory
A different type of black politican is emerging as President-elect Ronald Reagan prepares to take office in January. He is a well-dressed, middle-class, and possibly suburban black who favors the GOP, a party blacks dropped in the 1930s with the advent of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. He is a person with a subdued level of public exposure, and has only a small following among grass-roots and ghetto urban blacks.Skip to next paragraph
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The political strength of black people remains with the Democratic Party through the Congressinal Black Caucus and various organizations of black public officials. Even with the Reagan landslide, the lone black GOP member of Congress, Melvin H. Evans, former governor of the Virgin Islands, lost.
Nevertheless, fresh black faces are surfacing with the incoming administration -- ARthur E. Teele of Jacksonville, Fla., James E. Cummings of Indianapolis, Jack E. Robinson of Boston, John Plummer of Miami, Virgil Brown of Cleveland. More familiar names among Republicans also are moving into the spotlight -- Dr. Gloria E. A. Toote of New York City, ARthur Fletcher of Washington, D.C., W. O. Walker of Cleveland, Dr. Aris Allen of Annapolis.
The election of Mr. Reagan also spells the revitalization of the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy and the Rev. Hosea Williams, once powerful civil rights leaders whose starts were warning, and Mayor Charles ever of Fayette, Miss., who could be changing partners from Democrat to Republican. They have the grass-roots connections many of the GOP's "new kids on the block" lack.
Appearance of new leadership does not mean a black stampede back to the party of Abraham Lincoln or even a soft trend toward the GOP.The last "big" vote for Republicans came in 1956 when blacks went 36 percent for Dwilight D. Eisenhower. This fell to 20 percent for Richard Nixon when he lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Black Republicans are rejoicing, however, because in at least two states they may have provided the margin of victory -- in Arkansas where Reagan won by fewer than 5,000 votes while receiving more than 8,000 black ballots, and in Tennessee , where his edge was only 6,000 as blacks cast 16,000 votes for him, according to the Joint Center for Political Studies in Washington, D.C.
Black Republicans also show gains in state and local eelctions. In Miami, John Plummer became the first black state representative in the Florida state legislature in the 20th century. And, in Cleveland Virgil Brown became the first black ever elected to the Cuyahoga County Commission.
Whetehr the black vote for Reagan -- esti
Whether the black vote for Reagan -- Estimated as high as 15 percent by some sources and double the vote for President Ford in 1976 -- will be translated into cabinet and high level positions for blacks, remains to be seen. Black names being tossed about include Arthur E. Teele, who leads a transition team task force on transportation and who headed the Reagan-Bush campaign's efforts to win minority support; party veteran ARthur Fletcher who ran as GOP candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C., and others.
Black Republican leaders met Nov. 21-22 with Edwin Meese and other Reagan transition team leaders, but conference results have not been made public.
Angela D. Wright, who guided the black effort for the Republican National Committee, said, "It is most important at this time to get good black professionals in the new administration. The party promises a stabilized economy and more jobs. Black people need this."
Nationally, however, the Congressional Black Caucus increased from 16 to 17 members, all Democrats, including two from districts now represented by whites -- Mervin Dymally of Los Angeles, former lieutenant governor of California, and Augustus Savage of Chicago.
The other new members are Harold Washington of Chicago, succeeding Rep. Bennie Stewart, and Judge George Crockett of Detroit, supplanting Rep. Charles C. Diggs, who troit, supplanting Rep. Charles C. Diggs, who resigned after being found guilty of taking kickbacks from his employees. All 13 representatives seeking reelection won.
Chicago now becomes the only city with three black representatives in Congress. Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York City have two each.
The Black Caucus does not plan to lament over election results. "We are definitely requesting an audience with Mr. Reagan," says Rep. Cardiss Collins of Chicago, chairman of the caucus, considered the nation's most potent black political force. She led the fight to keep President Carter off the annual Black Caucus Weekend program this year and last year.
Black dissenters have resolved the Reagan issue in another way. They organized the new Black Independent Political Party this past weekend in Philadelphia. Ronald Daniels, a professor at Kent State University, heads the movement.
Although more blacks registered and voted than ever before, says Patricia Spaulding of the joint Center for Political Study, a black political think tank, the percentage of registered blacks who voted dropped to 60 percent, down from 64 percent in 1976. The percentage of eligible voters casting ballots, however, rose 2 percent to 40 percent this year, low in comparison to 52 percent for the nation, she notes.
Black voting on the losing side -- estimated from 80 to 89 percent for Carter by various polls -- made "ours an ineffective voice except for nonurban areas where blacks voted up to 50 percent for Reagan in some places," said Eddie N. Williams, president of the Joint Center.