Many of you read about the recent meeting between the Congressional Black Caucus and President Bush. In my view, the way the CBC played this encounter is typical of the problem with so many black Democratic elected officials. They didn't go to the meeting representing black America. They went to the meeting representing the Democratic Party.
They complained about unfair ballot counting in the black districts in Florida, counties that were presided over by Democrat-appointed boards. They protested the nomination of John Ashcroft as attorney general. I am no fan of Ashcroft, but the notion that the future welfare of black America turns one way or another on John Ashcroft is ridiculous. The protest against Ashcroft was simply designed to rally the faithful and raise money for liberal organizations that thrive on scaring people into thinking that fascism is around the corner.
If I had gone to that meeting with George Bush, here's what I would have done. I would have sat down and said, "OK, Mr. President. Let's talk business. First, I want your support for an immediate mobilization of the private sector. I want to raise $10 billion to fund innovative community programs based on a developmental approach that helps young people perform beyond their capacities. You could call them 'no faith-based' in the sense that they are based on having no faith that government-funded programs can be effective, because they become too politicized.
"I want you to introduce me to 100 major business leaders who will pledge to raise that money from corporate America. I have created several model programs -- without a dime of government money. You can use them as a model.
"Second, what do you intend to do about school vouchers? Eighty percent of parents in black and Hispanic communities want them. The teachers unions oppose them, which means the Democrats oppose them, which means we're looking at permanent gridlock. Meanwhile, the kids in our communities are suffering in failing schools, because both parties are afraid to go up against the unions. I'm ready to join with you in a partnership to introduce vouchers,and I will pressure every black Democrat to support us in doing so.
"Third, while we're talking about taking on the unions' influence over public policy, let's talk about corporate influence. Let me be very blunt, Mr. President. You have said you want to address the inequities in our society. You have said you want to reach out to the African- American community. Good. Let's talk about poverty.
"In order to deal with poverty, we must have a redistribution of wealth in this country. I understand that is not the Republican way. It's also not the Democratic Party way, except insofar as it has funded a self-perpetuating poverty industry and used taxpayer money to do it. But to effect an equitable distribution of wealth in a society such as ours means the society must have greater control over the terms on which business does business.
"Profit-making is successful in the context of a social contract, but the American people have had their power to shape and reshape that social contract drastically curtailed. Therefore, we must have a serious redistribution of political power. I'd like your support for a program of radical political reform that opens up the ballot, the debates and the voting booth and that imposes term limits on all elected officials.
"Ordinary citizens must be empowered. Independents -- who are the emerging majority in American politics -- support these kinds of reforms. John McCain almost beat you with his anti-corruption pro-reform campaign. That movement has not gone away. I would strongly urge that you and your administration become allies of mine in reforming the American political system."
Do I have an expectation that President Bush would accede to these demands? That's a complicated issue. At one level, no. For President Bush and the Republicans have their own set of institutional ties and class loyalties, just as the Democrats do.
However, as far as African-Americans are concerned, our greater involvement in independent politics and independent policy making weakens the Democratic coalition. And that, presumably is something President Bush and the Republicans would take to be in their self-interest.
Black America's capacity to pursue such a path requires that we seek out new alliances and new coalitions -- as independents -- with other sectors of U.S. society. That is the core of my political tactic.
LENORA FULANI, who has twice run for president as an independent, will speak at Rockwell Hall on the Buffalo State College campus at 7 p.m. Tuesday. She currently chairs the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, a New York based think-tank for the independent political movement.