May 1992: The Los Angeles riots cause conservative African-Americans concerned about racial tensions and the media's tendency to cover racial issues from a liberal perspective to meet in Washington to develop a strategy for improvement.
The result: the formation of Project 21, a group that recognizes that the African-American community is dynamic and diverse -- and far more conservative than most Americans and the media realize.
Project 21 members are doers, not talkers.
Rather than merely complain about the lack of attention given to conservative African-Americans by the national news media and elected officials, in 1992 a group of conservative African-Americans created Project 21. Ever since, African-Americans whose entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to family and commitment to individual responsibility has not typically been echoed by the establishment Black leadership have been a fixture on the nation's op/ed pages and radio talk shows.
The electoral tidal wave that swept a new political party into power in Washington in 1995 marks not just a change in governance for America, but a brand new beginning for Black America. Congress is no longer controlled by the party of the Great Society, encumbered by its past, but by a new group of leaders who can afford to take a fresh look at and try new approaches to issues that divide Americans from one another and problems that, particularly in the inner cities, drag some Americans down.
That is why Project 21 has chosen to title its second annual report on the state of Black America Black America 1995: A New Beginning.
We at Project 21 firmly believe that Black Americans welcome a new beginning. The tired solutions of liberalism haven't been working in our communities, and in many cases have caused new problems. And though Black Americans continue to vote for the Democratic Party (65% of Black Americans told pollster Frank Luntz in a November 8-9, 1994 poll that they had voted for Bill Clinton for president, as opposed to 7% for George Bush and 4% for Ross Perot), poll data indicates that Black Americans are restless voters.
For instance, in the same November 8-9, 1994 Frank Luntz poll cited above, only 30% of Black Americans replied "yes" when asked if recent Congresses had done an excellent/good job in passing good laws; only 22% thought those Democratic-controlled Congresses had done an excellent/good job in representing the opinions of average Americans; and only 25% thought these Congresses had done an excellent/good job in maintaining ethical standards. 57% of Black Americans said they disapproved of overall Congressional performance over the last two years (37% approved).
Perhaps more telling to those who wonder if Black Americans have a wandering eye politically, only 36% of Black Americans said that political party is now the most important factor in determining their vote, and only 39% of Black Americans said that of the various political parties, the Democratic party represented the "best hope for the future" (22% said the Republican party; 11% said both the Republican and Democratic parties; 20% said neither party and 8% didn't know or declined to answer). When asked "Who can bring about the kind of changes the country needs," 32% of Black Americans named the Democratic party, while 26% named the Republican -- not a very broad gulf for a group of voters the Democratic Party is said to take for granted.
Interestingly, 62% of Black Americans said that the trait most important to them when deciding to vote was a "candidate who listens to people like [them]," indicating that any political party that shows a sincere desire to listen to the concerns of African-American voters stands a good chance of getting a significant number of African-American votes.
Telling, also, were the answers to poll questions about the structure of government social programs. Although the establishment civil rights leadership has for years represented the Black community as being in lock-step behind them on issues relating to government social-spending, the Luntz poll did not find evidence to back up this claim of near-unanimity in the Black community. When asked "Who do you think would be better at caring for people who can't care for themselves, government or private groups like the Salvation Army, 47% of Black Americans said government, but a full 36% preferred private groups. When asked which level of government is best at dealing with the crime issue, 41% of Black Americans said the federal government, but 52% said states or localities.
For issues of welfare and housing for the poor, 42% of Black Americans said the federal government is best at dealing with the issue, and 52% choose states or localities. On the issue of unemployment, 40% choose the federal government, but 52% states and localities.
Also, 66% of Black Americans said "yes" to the question "Do You Consider Yourself to Be a Born-Again or Fundamentalist Christian?," as opposed to 40% of White respondents, demonstrating that many Black Americans are potential partners with conservatives on a host of social and family-related issues.
These poll numbers, combined with the knowledge Project 21's members have gained through their diverse experiences in community work, social service, education, the ministry, public service and more, tell me that Black America is indeed ready for A New Beginning.
Since its inception, Project 21 has enjoyed enormous success. Project 21 participants have been interviewed by hundreds of newspapers, talk radio shows and television programs throughout the country. Project 21 has been featured on such programs as the Rush Limbaugh show, CNN & Company, Michael Reagan, Larry King, G. Gordon Liddy, Pat Buchanan & Company and several hundred more, as well as in newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Detroit News, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and many others. Project 21 released a major report, The Health Care Ghetto: African-Americans and Health Care Reform, at a National Press Club press conference in August, 1994, and its first annual report on the state of Black America, Black America 1994: Changing Direction, in January 1994. Simply put, Project 21 has emerged as a leading voice for a new generation of African-American leadership.
We are confident that Black America 1995: A New Beginning continues that tradition of success, and we look forward to the debates and challenges of the new year to come.
Project 21 Advisory Committee
(For a copy of Project 21's 120-page Black America 1995: A New Beginning, send $12 to Project 21, c/o The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, 202/543-4110 Fax 202/543-5975, E-Mail [email protected]. Checks, money orders, Visa or Mastercard are accepted.)
Correspondence to Project 21 should be sent to: