Interview: Roland Martin on the Black Vote and the Presidential Election

Roland Martin is the author of Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith, Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America, and The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.

He is also a syndicated columnist and host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" (TV One Cable Network, 8 am PT and 11 am ET). Martin was questioned about the importance of the African-American vote this coming presidential election. In addition, CP asked about his view on how black voters who are Christian may look at the political issues that are also matters of faith.

CP: Is the African-American vote more important in this coming election than ever before? Why or why not?

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Martin: The Black vote is always important and the reason is it serves as a tremendous base for the Democratic Party. On the national level, Democrats traditionally receive at least 90 percent of the Black vote. If you look at 2008, two million more African-Americans voted that year than they did in previous years. Black women voted at a higher rate than any other group in 2008. They (Black voters) are critical because if you look at the re-election chances of President Obama,it's important for him to be able to say during a political campaign, "Look, I can depend on 'X' percentage of votes" and that allows him to be able to build a coalition.

If you look on the GOP side, when you can depend on social conservatives to be your base it allows for you to focus your resources and energy on another aspect of the demographic. That's why right now with the Latino demographic the president has something like a 50-point lead among Latinos on Mitt Romney. So, that makes Romney's chances more difficult. The Black vote is the same way. It is a part of coalition building and so it is absolutely important.

If you are a Democrat and you get less than 90% of the Black vote you are going to likely lose your election.

CP: Do you see any particular political issue that is dividing Christians in general? How about in the African-American Christian community?

Martin: Here's what's happening when we talk about politics and Christians. I'll put it this way. Look how many conservative pastors were blasting Mitt Romney during the primary because he is a Mormon. You had some pastors calling it a cult – "I can't give my vote to a cult." He gets the nomination then what happens? "OK, I know I called it a cult, but…" So, what they are saying is that they are not actually voting based upon their Christian faith. They are voting based on their political position.

My point is faith is huge in many people's lives, but when it comes to politics, a lot of times, people vote their political interest over their religious interest. I'm not speaking of individuals. I'm speaking as a collective. There is going to be pockets of people who don't take that position, but by and large folks are not going to vote based upon their faith. They are going to vote based on their personal political interest.

CP: Recently, a group of black faith leaders said "absolutely no" to the redefinition of marriage. And their conviction has compelled them to launch a campaign aimed at mobilizing 25 percent of African-American voters who backed Barack Obama to vote their biblical values. What is your reaction to this campaign?

Martin: First of all, who are these people? My intent is not to be demeaning. The point is you've got to have some credibility with the group you are trying to reach that somehow you are going to sway 25 percent of the electorate. Let's go back to 2004. I believe this election in 2012 in many ways resembles the election of 2004. The thinking in 2004 that by same-sex marriage on the ballot in those states that was going to be a galvanizing effort for African-Americans to not support the Democratic ticket, but to support the Republican ticket. The belief was that they could get 10, 12, 15 percent of the black vote. It didn't happen. Bush got a smaller percentage of the Black vote in '04 than he did in the year 2000. Do you realistically think you are going to see a real swing of 25 percent of Black votes who will not vote for President Obama and vote for Mitt Romney?

Those pastors have clearly lost their mind. They are not even remotely going to be effective. I would be willing to bet you right now that come election day, the most Mitt Romney may end up getting is 5 percent of the Black vote nationally.

CP: Tell me about Washington Watch. You tackle a variety of subjects. When it comes to talking about faith in America, what are the topics you like to address most and why?

Martin: One of the things that we try to do – first of all, when you look at the Sunday morning shows landscape these shows are basically the same. They go for the big newsmakers, they get the Senator, and the governor… You can rotate who those people are around the different shows and that's what you are going to see. I've gotten rid of the newsmaker at the top of the show. I open up with the roundtable and we really want to broaden the conversation. We talk about what are the social, political, cultural issues and how do they affect our communities. We've done this because people are sick and tired of hearing left (verses) right, liberal (verses) conservative. They want to know who can help my family? What about my values? What about things I care about? What about raising my kids? What about dealing with violence? That's what we have been confronting in dealing with the show and that is why the show is successful and the ratings have increased. We are not doing the same old same that you see in so many of these shows.

We did two shows from The Potter's House with T.D. Jakes. We didn't talk about religion. The show dealt with manhood, how to deal with this crisis (lack of male leadership) of black boys and black men in the community. We've had pastors on. I guarantee you we spend more time on our show really talking about how faith plays a role in different aspects of people's lives than the rest of these shows combined. I think the problem is that the mainstream media loves to tackle religion only from the adversarial point of view as opposed to it playing a significant role in the lives of people every single day.

CP: Your book, Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith, has been out several years now. Where has your spiritual journey taken you since the writing of this book?

It has become stronger. Since writing the book I have been even more forceful in speaking to issues of faith through the platform that I have. The reason it's important is because I has somebody come to me several years ago and say, "Man, you really need to be preaching.' I said that's not what I do. When I was in meditation, God began to speak to me and God said, "Roland, I have enough preachers. I need people where you are in your positions. When you are on radio, when you are on television, you speak into more people in the five minutes than some preachers speak to in an entire year."

I sign every book, "Continue to do God's will." I definitely believe that it is God's will for me to use my voice the way I use it where I am. We need people who truly live their faith, represent their faith, speaking to the issues of faith through a faith prism as opposed to just having folks talking about faith when there is a crisis. So, I try to make it clear through morals and values and my faith, in my writing, in my every day discussions on the air. To me, that's the difference maker. It's really how [my faith] has strengthened in terms of me using my voice to do God's will.

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