Everyone paid attention to a very noble cause that kicked off on September 22. The “No Wedding, No Womb” initiative was founded by Christelyn D. Karazin and Lorraine Spencer to form a coalition of new media professionals and hobbyists to push back against the dysfunction that has taken over American neighborhoods today — namely, the acceptance of out-of-wedlock births across the nation.
And I assure you: I stand with them not just as an advocate but as a first-hand witness to the risks and challenges that having children out-of-wedlock brings on both the parents and the children involved. As someone who became a father at age 21, I know that I have been a presence in my daughter’s life since the beginning. As she hates me saying — but I will say until I have breathed my last breath — I cut her umbilical cord, I named her, I taught her how to walk and talk, and I coached her as an in-classroom parent for Head Start while I worked a second-shift during my days in my native Pittsburgh. Although I was in a committed relationship with her mother at the time, the odds were still against us. At one point, the only job I could find was as a deli clerk at a local Giant Eagle supermarket, walking to work 45 minutes each way through challenging weather and bad neighborhoods in order to provide.
And that was after I graduated as a scholarship student from the best academic high school in the region. Yet, even with my education, the road was tough — not only to provide, but to contribute to society at an optimal level before getting back into college to earn my undergraduate degree.
For every young person like me — someone willing to work 50 hours a week for minimum wage while trying like mad to stay off of public assistance or any other program that kicks in only when I am not a presence in my child’s life — there are scores of people that are unable or unwilling to work through the challenge of having a child out of wedlock without the assistance of big government steering the way.
Until more Americans pledge “No Wedding, No Womb,” no Pledge to America will ever take effect.
Yes, many will see this as a problem primarily for the black community. The numbers show that there is truly a problem within Black America; almost 80% of black households in some cities are headed by a single mother as a result of out-of-wedlock births or divorce. However, this is an American problem; it is not based on color alone. It is based on the negative direction of the conditions and culture within America in many of our towns and cities, from Boston to San Francisco and the many small towns in between.
Because of that, without Republicans, Tea Party patriots, and others taking a strong and active interest in efforts such as “No Wedding, No Womb,” there will never be an opportunity to institute anything from their pledge aside from a press conference and the expression of good intentions.
As I mention in my book several times, in order to regain the smaller government presence that political conservatives want in our lives, it must take a bigger presence of everyday Americans in the lives of those that are primarily impacted by bigger government policies and programs. Efforts such as “No Wedding, No Womb” have the power to eliminate the need for extensive government funding of urban initiatives that intend — but fail — to change the poverty dynamic within America and especially within America’s urban areas. But we will only be able to cut funding for programs that boost the education, health (e.g., food stamps) and wellbeing of the destitute (both temporary and chronic) after we tackle the tough social issues that threaten to permanently weaken America.
Struggling Americans will continue to vote for bigger government spending and involvement so long as other viable avenues for short-term buoyancy and long-term advance do not seem obtainable. Poor, desperate people understand the theoretical principles that the Republicans and Tea Party patriots have been pushing for the past two years; (in fact, in many ways, urban America and Black voters have an awful lot in common with these conservatives in regards to political principles.) Yet, everyday realities will not allow them to vote for these principles because their hard-luck realities do not afford them to live in theory.
And yes, we make our own luck, which is why making a new normal for American children must be a priority if a new pledge is going to make any sense to — and really make an impact on — voters in the fall and beyond. At some point, we have to stop just pointing people to political choices. It will take more Americans to help point our youth to better personal choices in order to help shrink government back to its proper place in our lives. It starts with parents, but it includes all Americans. We are examples of a better reality, not just promoters of a philosophical way of life or defenders of a political stance.
I know that the “Pledge” will matter with conservatives, including social conservatives who will claim the mantra of personal accountability when it comes to initiatives such as the one that kicked off yesterday. I get that. However, there is also a measure of personal accountability that we must take upon ourselves to guide the youth away from devastating choices that can impact their lives and delay their potential fulfillment. Many Americans will not accept the alluring items within the Pledge to America so long as we are not addressing issues that impact the government spending that we are opposed to.
The Tea Party Revolution has been amazing to witness and has benefited this nation in many ways. However, there is nothing like a revolution of poor and frightened people who feel as though their last lifeline will be cut should Republicans take control and implement the “Pledge” without considering how to improve economic conditions in urban America. “No Wedding, No Womb” attempts to go after this dynamic. Republicans — even with their “Pledge” — need to make sure that they are open to doing the same.
If we have learned anything from BOPE so far (the Barack Obama Presidential Experience), it is this: you can campaign on hope, but if you are unable to translate good feelings and theory into new perspectives and better realities, you will disappoint many Americans and endanger our future. Republicans can bring out a pledge if they choose, but without connecting the tenets of the pledge to those that big government means the most to, connecting with conservatives in 2010 with the “Pledge to America” will end up being a bridge to nowhere, as the items listed will not have a chance to fully take root.
Elections results matter, but those politicians who speak well in sound bites must be able to deliver across the aisle when the governance of real people begins. Effective leadership begins when good feelings and great pledges lose their shock-value effectiveness. We have seen the Democrats fail at this (tying gimmicks and promises to empowering results) in the Era of BOPE. It’s time for conservatives to learn that lesson quickly and tie their principles to efforts that matter so that their pledges — along with any legislation — don’t fail the American people. The Republicans can fire up their base to “Fire Pelosi” on their bus tour and the Tea Party Express can roll on, but if we don’t realize that changing America starts with improving the lives — and choices — of those that ride the buses of everyday America, we’ll all miss the point . . . and a chance for a pledge to make way for real progress for the nation.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister” on WVON 1690 AM The Talk of Chicago (www.wvon.com) He is the author of the upcoming edition of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative): The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010)”. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook.