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It’s that time of year again where people come knocking on black folks doors that we haven’t seen in our communities for the past two years asking for our votes.

Please forgive my pessimism, but I love our community and I am so tired of us being politically played for our votes election cycle after election cycle. For as a community, we continue to allow ourselves to get played by not being more proactive in our politics.

It seems like we always find ourselves having to come in and ‘save the day’ and get out and vote so that the Tea Party or the conservatives or whoever else will not take over Congress. And I am not saying these aren’t valid reasons to vote, but I am raising the question, ‘If we are constantly voting against whatever the latest threat is, when are we going to get to vote for something… for ourselves?’

My point is this: Politics is a contact sport to be effectively and proactively played. If you don’t play–as an interest group, movement or as a community— guess what happens?

That’s right. You end up getting played.

No matter what we think, or how we may disagree with or criticize the Tea Party and their actions, they know how to play politics.

In fact, we’re giving them attention right now because we have to.

That acknowledged, could you imagine if the black community set the tone for the elections…? And given we are much larger than the Tea Party will ever be, why shouldn’t we?

Instead, every two years, we wait for folks to come knocking on our door and tell us, yet again, that the sky will fall if we don’t get out and save the world from the ghosts, goblins, and scariest of all, the Glenn Becks.

I hate to say this, but I really can’t think of a better analogy. It’s like the black community is an electoral bootie call. They hit us up when they need us, and then we don’t hear from them again until they want something else.

And make no mistake about it, we empower them to do so. You see, the art of playing politics is not folding into one party or another just because you feel they represent the lesser of two evils.

Once we do this, we have no power as a community because the lesser evil knows we’re always going to be there when they call.  We’re like a cheap date, happy with going to the fast-food joint down the street when every other constituency is getting filet mignon from the fancy restaurant downtown.

If we truly want to be powerful politically as a community then we cannot keep doing what we are doing, because it’s simply not working. Reacting to the latest threat that comes along every election cycle is not playing politics. Making others react to us is.

I can just hear some folks out there right now saying, “Yeah Stephanie, I feel you and all, but you know black folks can’t come together to get anything done.”

Well, I might actually agree with you if it weren’t for the fact African Americans happen to consistently be the most cohesive block of voters in the country. We’re obviously unified about something.

So as we go to the ballot box IN MASSE on Tuesday, November 2nd, let’s also start thinking outside the box so we will not be taken for granted again two years from now.

And let’s master how to play politics so it doesn’t continue to play us.

Stephanie Robinson is President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focused on democracy. She is an author, a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School and former Chief Counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Stephanie reaches 8 to 10 million listeners each week as political commentator for the popular radio venue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show.  Visit her online at

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