KANSAS CITY, MO. — `WE are dangerously continuing down the road of a divided America," says the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, mayor of Kansas City, Mo.
"Unless something is done ... we're going to find ourselves annually sitting on powder kegs in every major urban center in this country."
His warning reflects what he sees as the two central concerns of African-Americans in the presidential election.
"I think you would find, all across America, black leaders attaching themselves to any candidate who pledged to deal with the problem of the cities, and who would not play the race card during the political campaign," he says.
For Mr. Cleaver, that candidate is Gov. Bill Clinton, who like himself is a Democrat. But "the truth of the matter is, I am so concerned about Kansas City's future that I would have supported a Republican who brought forth an urban agenda. Had Jack Kemp been a candidate, frankly, I would have had to struggle quite a bit to decide between" the two.
He expects blacks to give Governor Clinton more than 90 percent of their vote, but to turn out lightly unless Bush does something new to offend them. "The president has already angered blacks in such ways as opposing the civil rights bill of 1991, but it's mild rage right now."
Cleaver applauds Clinton for taking the stand that welfare should not be a way of life, and for saying so to African-American audiences as well as to conservative whites.
He says blacks in Kansas City want to hear the candidates discuss community development block grants, aid to public schools, urban development action grants, and affirmative action.
"But the No. 1 issue is going to be the same issue that most other Americans are concerned about, and that is the economy," Cleaver says. Unemployment in Kansas City is a relatively low 5.2 percent overall, but twice as high among blacks.
Cleaver believes that solving the problems facing the major cities will require "a partnership" among federal, state, and local governments as well as the private sector to create needed programs. "I don't think we'll have the mammoth, government-funded programs that we had during, believe it or not, the Richard Nixon years no matter who wins," he adds.
Cleaver says of the next four years, "I think if Clinton wins, we obviously are going to have a little more support coming from Washington, but nothing at the level that we need to address the problems in Kansas City."