As I write this there are only three weeks left until Election Day.
Native Americans by the thousands will, for the most part, go into the voting booth and cast their ballots for the candidates that are Democrats. In Election Day 2008 that is to be expected and the Democratic Party knows it.
Let's get this election behind us and, beginning November 5, 2008, start to re-evaluate our connections to America's political parties. The time has come for Native Americans to break from the flock and to think outside of the box. I believe this is very important because I was once a member of that flock and in the magical year of 2008 I observed many things within both Republican and Democratic parties that caused me to stand back and re-examine my party affiliation.
I would even take it one step further and instead of joining an Independent Party, why not form our own party and call it the Native American Party. This idea is not so farfetched. After all, there are people in the Libertarian and Green Parties that are not affiliated with either the Democrats or Republicans. Granted these separatist parties run their own candidates each presidential election year, but that does not mean that Native Americans should dilute their votes by doing likewise.
As a matter of fact, if there was a Native American Party, both Republicans and Democrats would be catering to that party in hopes of garnering their support for their candidates. When any party takes its voters for granted it spends little time or money reaching for their votes. Example: How many times have presidential candidates been invited to speak at national Indian events and failed to do so? If the Native American Party held a national convention you can bet your bottom dollar that they'd all be there.
In the past the Republican Party knew that Indians would always vote the straight Democratic ticket. As a result they shied away from soliciting the Indian vote and they also shied away from supporting any legislation favorable to the Indian people.
It was the mass media that created the epiphany that brought about my thought change. As I watched and read the one-sided news reports on both candidates I realized that by filtering out the political prospects of the Republicans simply because I was a Democrat, I was denying myself the options of hearing both sides of an argument. Like that flock of sheep, I was herded into one field even though there might have been more and better grass in another field.
If the only newspapers we read or the only television 24/7 stations we watch are those catering to the left how will we ever know what is happening on the right? If we (Native Americans) formed out own party we would be more apt to want to learn about the political views of both or all parties. It only stands to reason.
Much of the money reaching the Indian reservations comes there in the form of earmarks. It comes in dribs and drabs and usually amounts to just enough to make most programs it is intended to serve fail before they have a chance to get started. From health to education to housing the Indian people are dependent upon the federal government. That doesn't make it right, but it does make it a reality.
Therefore, most Native Americans join the party they believe can bring them the basic services they have earned through treaties, but are too often forced to hold out their hats for the few goodies that come to them in the shape of earmarks. What the Indian people really need are solid programs for housing, education and health based upon annual appropriations that are true and constant not upon whimsical earmarks that are baseless. If Congress decided to eliminate earmarks altogether, what would happen to the many small programs on Indian reservations and urban centers across America that are heavily reliant upon them?
The case to create a Native American Party that all other parties would cater to in order to secure their votes may be the answer the Indian people have been searching for all of these years. Don't you think that the senior senator of any state would appoint Indians to serve as federal judges if the Native American Party demanded it in lieu of their support? How many other of the demands of the Native Americans would be answered in states with large Indian populations if the loss of their support could mean the loss of an election? As I said last week, think about it and after November 4, 2008, start giving it very serious consideration.
© 2008 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association and the founder and publisher of Indian Country Today, the Lakota Times, and the Dakota/Lakota Journal. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.